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SEEDS OF PINE 



SEEDS OF PINE 



By 



JANEY CANUCK 

Author of 
"Open Trails", etc. 



" A htmd/ul of pine-aeeda will cover mountaina 
with the green majesty of the forest, and I, too, 
will set my face to the wind and throw my 
handful of eeed on high." 

— Fiona Maaleod 




TORONTO 

THE MUSSON BOOK COMPANY 

LIMITED 



Copyright, Canada. 1922 
THB MUSSON BOOK COMPANY. LTD. 
PUBLISHERS TORONTO 




ALL CANADIAN FROCUCTIOH 



/ 



Affectionately dedicated to 
my four brothers; 

Thomas It. Ferguson, K.C. 

Gowan Ferguson, M.D. 

Harcourt Ferguson, K.C. 

Honourable Mr. Justice W. N. Ferguson 



CONTENTS 

Chapter Page 

I Westward With the Grand Trunk 

Pacific 1 

II A Frontier Post 15 

III To THE Builders 29 

IV Behind the Hills 44 

V The End of Steel 57 

VI Bitter Waters 71 

VII Motoring to Athabasca Landing 80 

VIII Country Delights 91 

IX At the Landing 99 

X On the Athabasca River 115 

XI Some Northern Pioneers 124 

XII At the Parting of the Rivers 136 

XIII On the Portage 145 

XIV On the Lesser Slave River 156 

XV The Bishop of the Arctic 170 

XVI Northern Vistas 178 

XVII A Country Woman at the City Races. . 194 

XVIII In Northern Gardens 203 



viii CONTENTS 

Chapter Page 

XIX Communing With the Ruthenians 209 

XX The Shadow op the Scaffold 220 

XXI The Baboushka 228 

XXII The Hero Priests of the North 231 

XXIII Coal-Mining in Alberta 246 

XXIV The Playgrounds of the West 264 

XXV The Overland Trah. of '98 276 

XXVI A Song of this Land 292 



SEEDS OF PINE 



SEEDS OF PINE 

CHAPTER I 

WESTWARD WITH THE GRAND TRUNK PACIFIC 

" 'What went j'e out into the wilderness to see?' They answered 
thus, 'So that we might not see the city.' " 

SiK William Butler. 

THE new steel trail the railway men are lay- 
ing from Edmonton leads away and away, 
I cannot say whither. For these many days 
I have had an anxious desire to follow it and the 
glories thereof. I am tired of this town and of 
the electrical devices that appear and re-appear in 
the darkness like eyes that open and shut — wicked 
eyes that burn their commercial message into my 
very soul. I am sick of these saucy, swaggering 
streets and of sundry of the townspeople. Come 
you wdth me and let us travel do\\m the ways 
through the heart of the summer ! We shall have 
breeze and sun in our eyes, and breeze and sun in 
our hearts. If you like not the prospect, pray, 
come no further, for we be contrary the one to the 
other and no way-fellows. 

As we climb on the train this morning, it seems 
as though our quest for quiet is to be cheated by 
the wallowing wave of humanity that threatens to 

1 



2 SEEDS OF PINE 

submerge us. Who are these close-nudged folk 
and whither away! 

She who runs may read them for hard-headed, 
white-handed men in search of ** prospects"; 
brown-throated homesteaders; real-estate agents 
out for talking points and for snap fortunes; 
mining engineers with dunnage bags — young fel- 
lows all in the full force of life — these, and *'the 
gang," who are ill-looking men and rather dirty. 

The gang fare forth to work on the railway 
grades. They are always ganging — that is going 
— for the words are strictly synonymous. The 
gang going to the city meet the gang coming out. 

And so in everything they are retroactive, and 
fight much, and swear, to give weight to their 
differences of opinion. In one thing only is the 
gang agreed, no navvy has yet been found who 
disputed the axiom that the Boss is a yellow 
canine. 

There is a sprinkling of women, too, and we 
talk to each other in the friendly manner of the 
country. A couple of them are half-breed girls, 
with drooping feathers and skirts that have a hiss. 
Surely their men are industrious Indians. Both 
are cinched into their clothes like a cayuse into 
its pack-saddle. Both have skin the colour of 
brown coffee into which milk has been poured, and 
always they are fussing with their pinned-on 
curls. **The judicious Hooker" once watched 
some women doing this, and he said they were 
**a-dilling and burling their hair." No one may 
ever hope to strike out a more apt expression. 



WESTWARD 3 

The younger of the girls has an indiscreet mouth 
and desirous eyes. I should not be surprised, if 
one of these times our little brown woman found 
these to be a mortgage on her soul somewhat dif- 
ficult of discharge. And the usury, little woman, 
it troubles me, the usury! 

The farmer's w4fe who shares my seat came to 
this province ten years ago from the United 
States. Her husband made entry for a homestead 
and she built tlie house, outbuildings, and fences 
on it, and bought the implements with money she 
had saved from school-teaching. The first year, 
their crop was frozen; the second, it was hailed 
out; and the third, a spark from the threshing- 
machine burned their wheat stacks. Their horses 
died and they had to incur debt for others. All 
this time, the woman supported the household 
with the returns from her poultry yard and dairy. 
These last years have been fat ones, thus enabling 
them to save sufficient money to send two of their 
sons to the business college in Town. The eldest 
girl is walking with the young man on the adjoin- 
ing farm and a wedding is brewing. 

To my thinking, this homely, ill-accoutred 
woman is something like a heroine, and it is a pity 
the end of her troubles is not yet. Her husband, 
w^ho appears to be a flabby-spirited fellow, has 
always wanted to, and has finally decided that he 
will sell the farm and go to the to\sTi to keep a 
boarding-houso. She is opposed to the move and 
has been in the town endeavouring to protect her 
interests in the property, but finds she is unable 



4 SEEDS OF PINE 

so to do. Because of this she lias decided to buy 
the farm from him and has the agreement ready 
for his signature. I am astounded by her hardi- 
hood. She has the soul of a warrior. If the 
recalcitrant spouse refuses to sell — no, I won't 
tell what she intends doing, for I am willing to 
wager you, even to the half of my kingdom, that 
he sells. 

The woman is proud, I can see, and accordingly 
careful to enlarge on her man's good qualities, but 
it takes no acuteness to read through her assur- 
ances that he is a pessimist and one who always 
draws tails in the toss of life. 

The readers who have come with me thus far 
may here swing off key, but. People Dear, you 
would be wrong; she is not chastising him; she 
is mothering him. It is a remarkable trait in the 
make-up of a good woman that she can, in critical 
junctures, not only be her own mother but may 
also act in this capacity to the husband of her 
children. It is this same office the Holy Ghost 
performs in the Trinitj^ 

The newsy is giving the last call to breakfast. 
He is a full-lifed young man, with a cock-o'-my- 
walk air. I would not be surprised if he were 
hatched out of the egg of a pouter-pigeon. He 
serves meals as far as Edson, from whence we will 
be transferred to a construction train and trust to 
manna being rained down from heaven. His tables 
are crowded with guests, and we sit close like 
kernels on an ear of corn. For breakfast, there is 
tea; there is coffee; there are pork chops, and 



WESTWARD 5 

other fat foods which are made palatable by the 
sprightly addition of sour pickles. Indeed, you 
may credit me, this breakfast is not one to be 
sniffed at. I drink pannikins of tea that is very 
strong and green, and fearlessly ask for more. If 
there is a happier woman in the North than my- 
self, I have never heard of her. I quite agree with 
you ; our pouter-pigeon serves the public far more 
effectually than do the cabineteers, or even the 
bishops. 

We are yet in the wheat belt and the wheat is 
at flood-tide. When I see a large stand of grain 
that is breast-high I say, "Well done. Good Fel- 
lows!" and "Haste to the in- gathering ! " The 
field hears my salutation to the sowers and bows 
a million heads to me. And it says, shibboleth! 
shibboleth! (If you would pick up the talk of the 
fields you must be still and listen.) 

The Hebrews, with ears a-tilt, caught this 
whisper, and so their word for an ear of wheat 
was "shibboleth." It was this word the 
lOphraimites lisped and so betrayed themselves to 
Jephthah. The difference was only one of an 
aspirate. A\Tiat they said was sibboleth. 

Now, while one can tell the sound of ripe wheat, 
no word is exactly descriptive of the odour there- 
of. AMien I am not tired my pen almost catches 
it. The odour is an intangible something between 
dryness and colour, and the sign that expresses it 
can only be revealed. 

It is the mental habit of people to think of 
wheat as only so many bushels of inert matter 



6 SEEDS OF PINE 

that is bought and sold on margins by half-mad 
men, whereas, in all the world, wheat is the thing 
most richly alive. It won't die, not for thousands 
of years. We would put jars of wheat in the 
corner-stones of our state buildings, even as the 
Egyptians buried it in tombs of rock. It is the 
only food we could pass down the centuries to 
posterity, and apart from its scientific value, there 
is little doubt posterity would appreciate the gift 
infinitely more than those stupid name-lists of 
still stupider people. The grain should be of the 
highest grade, with the name of the grower and 
the exact location of his farm added thereto. 

Yes! let us tuck away these northern wheat 
grains till England becomes a republic; the 
United States a kingdom; and until the yellow 
peril has turned white. Let us lay them safely 
aside for that day when labour and capital have 
become one, or till a still later epoch when 
instead of sex in soul, there shall be soul in sex. 
Then take them out. Posterity, and crush them 
into a sacramental wafer that all the world may 
eat of it as a loving pledge from the twentieth 
century. 

If you think this too long to wait, perhaps you 
will recall that while the seven sleepers slept, 
Caesar was superseded by Christ. Now, the time 
they slept was for the lives of three men. 

In handling wheat, you have doubtless noticed 
that it is not only alive but possesses a markedly 
developed will-power. It is ever resisting con- 
quest. They tell me that in the part of the ex- 



1 



WESTWARD 7 

change called the pit, you cannot beat back 
wheat. Some men have succeeded for a while, 
but always it has rolled in and smothered its erst- 
while victors. Tr>' to hold a handful and the task 
is well-nigh impossible. It slides through your 
fingers and causes your palm to open involun- 
tarily. It wearies a man to hold wheat tightly for 
long. Oats may be held and other cereals, but 
not wheat. Its tendency is to fall to the ground 
and reproduce. Thus, it is age-old but still 
eternally young. It is the true Isis and no one has 
lifted its veil. I tell you men, there is something 
uncanny and almost wicked about a thing that re- 
fuses to die, and it so small as a grain of wheat. 

As a whole, this country is not beautiful, but 
now and then, there come striking pictures. Here 
are pleasing lakelets a-flusli with ducks; tall 
cotton-woods which I name the maidens because of 
their fluffy hair — these, and lush meadows, over 
which range regiments of asters, sunflowers, and 
yarrow. It is a magic lantern fantasia with an 
occasional muskeg to represent the waits be- 
tween views. On the muskegs the trees are so thin 
and straight they fairly scratch your eyes. 

Oh ! but it is hot this day, and every leaf seems 
a green tongue thrust out with thirst. The sun is 
making amends for his insulting reticence of last 
winter. The Indians call him Great Grandfather 
Sun, but why, I do not know. 

The houses of the homesteaders are built of 
poplar lumber, weather-stained and ugly. Others 
are of logs chinsed with mud and moss. All are 



8 SEEDS OF PINE 

small and favourable neither for hospitality 
nor reproduction. Some day, when a large acreage 
is under crop, pretty bungalows with brave red 
paint, will edit the scene as in the older and more 
settled districts of the north. 

At every station, land seekers get out and dis- 
appear into the trees as if the country ate them 
up, and, indeed, I am not so sure but it does. 

A baby gets off too — a new baby that has come 
from the city hospital is being brought home. 
You would fancy a baby was a miracle the way 
the men look at it and ask questions. Her name is 
Annette. She was born on duck-day. Her father 
works in a saw-mill. AVe crowd to the window to 
watch him meet Annette, for we would see the 
gladness on his face. He is an admirably strong 
man, with the hard sinews of a wolf. He has surely 
gone through the mill to some effect. I think he 
likes Annette, but he looks most at the small 
mother and he has the mate tone in his voice. 

The women ask me concerning my husband, and 
T say, ' ' Oh yes ! I have a husband up here, some- 
where — a big, fair man — I wonder if you have seen 
him.'* 

They are discreetly silent, but I can see they are 
hoping I'll catch him. This is not a case of 
duplicity on my part but rather of kindness. It 
is one's stoutest duty to convej^ colour and snip- 
pets of gossip of women, who, for the long winter 
months to come, are to remain in these wilds. 
You must understand that gossip is not wicked 
up North. Besides, this word actually means a 



WESTWARD 9 

sponsor at baptism — an office recognized by all the 
world as one of unimpeachable respectability. 

At Wabamun there is a great sweep of forest, 
but, a year ago, a great fire raged here and large 
patches of burnt trees assault the eyes. Hitherto, 
the homesteaders have had a two-handed harvest, 
one from their lovely lake and the other from the 
land, but, nowadays, their richest harvest comes 
from the summer tourists, who are building up a 
popular resort at this point. Simmier girls are 
trespassing on the berry-patches, once the sole 
preserve of Indian maidens, and Ole Larsen's 
fishing grounds are full open to sailing yachts 
and electric launches. Such fish as Ole could catch, 
and such fish as his Frau could cook! Always, I 
bowed my head over my plate and said the Indian 
grace, "Spirit, partake." Ole can tell where the 
fish are to be foimd in certain seasons by the 
movements of the birds. The fish feed on flies 
and rise to the surface for them, whereupon a 
gull or duck will fall with plummet-like pounce. 
White-fish bite in the autumn. " Yumping yiminy, 
dey yust do." 

Tlie remains of the railway construction camps 
have almost disappeared, and only the ])leached 
bones of horses mark out the long trail of the 
grading gangs. 

Here are the grades I descended a couple of 
years ago while prospecting over this ground. 
What slopes these are to put a horse down. They 
are like those described at St. Helena, upon which 
you miglit break your heart going up or your neck 



10 SEEDS OF PINE 

coming down, with the additional risk of being 
arrested as a trespasser. On this place where we 
once ranged for coal-rights, the real-estate agents 
have sub-divided the surface into desirable build- 
ing lots, that sell from three to five hundred dol- 
lars the lot. 

One day, this" lake shore will be a hive of in- 
dustry, for deep in her loins Mother Earth had 
hutched her riches of coal and fire-clay, and, may- 
hap, more minerals that are precious. Once, in 
drilling here, our men came upon black sand with 
a showing of gold, but it petered out, after a 
couple of inches. It w^as with great difficulty they 
were persuaded to go on with the drilling instead 
of going to town to file on claims. 

Already there are several towns along this lake- 
front — that is to say, towns consisting of three or 
four tents or houses. In the earlier days of the 
North each settlement was commenced with a fort, 
now it is begun with a railway station. The next 
building to be erected is the station agent's house, 
which is quickly followed by a restaurant, and a 
general store with a post-office. This is the axis 
from which the homesteaders radiate into the sur- 
rounding country, and, presto! before you know 
it, there is a bank, an implement shop, a church, 
a liotel, and the other conveniences of modern 
civilization including mortgages. 

Already you may see trails like long black welts 
across the land — trails that appear to fare forth 
without any preconceived plan and to hold a lure 
in their far reaches for happy-go-idlers like you 



WESTWARD 11 

and me. There is no telling what we might find 
on them a goodish way off. The only straight 
trails made in this North land are made by the 
engineers, and as you look do\\'n the lines you may 
readily see that they lead into t-he sky. I like 
greatly the unthanked, unknown engineers who 
beat out these paths for the people who are to 
come after. No trumpets herald their coming, or 
announce the leagues they have herded beliind, 
but I tell you these fellows are a commonwealth of 
kings, and we may as well stop here for a moment 
and stand at salute. 

And after the engineers came the builders with 
their sinews of steel to bind the trail. It is this 
steel strength that makes the land to bud and 
blossom. It is creative. Well and truly has a 
builder said that the land without population is a 
wilderness, and the population without land is a 
mob. Yes! it is a steel idol we worship in this 
country and not one of gold, and we do refuse to 
grind it to powder and drink thereof, no matter 
wliat any Moses or Aaron may say. 

This last hour I have been in mind-to-mind talk 
with a young Englishman who does not think 
much of Canada. He speaks of our dismal respec- 
tability, our tombstone virtues, and our provincial 
small-mindedness. We call our gardens yards, 
and have no manners to speak of. Indeed, nothing 
but a major operation could remedy our boorish- 
ness. 

Now, all he says is quite true hui I don 'I believe 
it; besides, his English-sure way of sununing us 
up is irritating to ray sense of patriotism. 



TJ SEEDS OP PINE 

In some places up here he has had to sleep in 
puppy's parlours, which means with his clothes 
on. This must have been uncomfortable in that 
he still wears leather puttees which are the true 
hall-mark of men from the British Isles. He 
talked about our cold winters and how unbearable 
they were, just as if the cold were not the sepia 
the North shoots forth to protect herself from 
joj^ous loafers. I did not say this, for one cannot 
be polite and patriotic at the same time, and it is 
well to be polite . . . only I remarked that one of 
these cold days we will shut off the Gulf Stream 
instead of sending it out to heat up England. 

I have no doubt he has private means, for he has 
travelled widely and is a well-educated man. He 
came here to have a go at homesteading. 
"Have you succeeded?" I ask. He does not reply 
except to ejaculate, *' Farming — my hat!" where- 
upon we both laugh, he at the Canadians and I at 
the English. 

The average youth from England finds it trying 
to be stripped of precedent, and there is nothing 
approximating Canadian homestead life in Lon- 
don. We too often forget this and so fail to make 
allowances for his prejudices and lack of adapta- 
bility. Our government mounts liim and puts his 
foot in the saddle, but he must set the pace him- 
self. One can hardly expect the government to do 
more, but yet, it seems a pity so much excellent 
material is annually lost to the Dominion because 
we have not the time or means to work it up. It 
will take some years to manipulate the crude 



WESTWARD i:^ 

European immigrants into the mental and physi- 
cal trim of this Britisher and to inculcate them 
■s\'ith equally high political standards. We do not 
recognize this, or maintain an easy passivity to it, 
until at some election crises our hearts fail us for 
fear because of the preponderance of the foreign 
vote in educational and moral matters. 

And the Englishman and I speak of subjects of 
grave import, and of how it is not seemly that we 
trade too freely with foreign peoples (especially 
with the States of the American Union), neither is 
it loyal to our most Christian King, George V. 
''Wealth at the expense of loyalty is not a thing 
to be desired,'' says the Englishman, *'and Col- 
onials do well to preserve the integrity of the Em- 
pire," to which dictum I make no reply, not being 
able to gainsay him. I could wish though that he 
tell me how we are to avoid so doing. 

This dear lad would go into literary work if we 
read anything in Canada besides statistics, sport- 
ing news, and crop forecasts. In the contemplation 
of our sordid practicability, he is lost in astonish- 
ment. ''No, madam, I shall not do it, and I shall 
tell you my reason," says he. "If you write with 
a sense of life or colour along will come some 
weighty, grim fellows whose business it is to write 
stock quotations — leaden creatures, believe me — 
and they will distinctly sniff and sneeze out the 
word 'impressionistic,' by which they mean fanci- 
ful. Sons of bats ! If once they tried to frame an 
impression in black and white they might have 
some proper foiiiiuclH'iwl.ni of flio wmd. Any un- 



14 SEEDS OP PINE 

couth man can state facts, but it is the telling what 
the facts stand for that hurts. A coarse man can- 
not take impressions except from a closed fist, 
which impression he would probably describe as 
a '(lint in the pro-file.' Such an one hears no 
farther than his ears, although, in not a few 
cases, this might be no inconsiderable distance." 

''No, I will not become the local litterateur,^^ 
continues the lad, "to be received by the com- 
munity with a mingling of pride and sarcasm. I 
tell you what I will do: it is better to be a real- 
estate broker, in that all conditions tend to what 
you Colonials call 'a dead sure thing.' It is the 
only business in which a man reaps where he does 
not sow\ I will surely be a real-estate man. This 
I will be." 

AVe are come to Edson now — the terminus of 
the passenger route — but I am going to describe 
it in another chapter, for it would be ungrateful 
to bulk it with other events because of the sense 
of adventure I enjoyed from my visit thereto. 



CHAPTER II 

A FRONTIER POST. 
The new world whicii is the old. — Tbitxtsox. 

HAVE I told you about Edson and its pros- 
pects! No! ah, well, never mind, I shall 
do so by and by, Avhcn I have talked to the 
citizens. 

While biding my time for a seat at the lunch- 
counter, I will walk up and down the station plat- 
form. Every minute men are arriving to await 
the out-going train to the city. They come and 
come, apparently from nowhere, till there are 
quite a hundred of them. Of course, they really 
come from up the street (I should have said from 
the streets, for there are two, or, perhaps, three 
streets), having recently arrived from the grading 
camps somewhere up in the mountains. We are 
iroing there to-morrow, or maybe the next day, 
and then we shall see the habitat of these battling, 
l)rown-throated fellows who nose the stream of 
flesh-pots and feed on hunks of brawn. 

The men philander about, or sit on the platform 
jilanks, and loll lazily against the sun-warmed 
wall. They count their money, smoke, and talk, 
hut on the whole they are quiet. Also they stare 

15 



16 SEEDS OF PINE 

at me like they were gargoyles and whisper the 
one to the other. This is not because of rudeness 
— not at all! Even the white armoured Sir 
Galahad would find it difficult to be knightly in 
the circumstances. For months they have done 
naught save stake out and measure up, shovel 
gravel, dig ditches, set transits, sweat and swear, 
for a railway, you may have heard, is built with 
heavier implements than batons, pens,' or golf- 
sticks. No woman has come near them except 
certain will-o '-the wisps whom the Mounted Police 
did straightway turn back to town. Their lives 
have been filled full of contest, hardship, and lone- 
liness, so that every mother's son desires, above 
all else, that some woman (she may be either saint 
or sinner) put her hands upon him and tell him 
he is a truly fine fellow and worthy to be greatly 
loved. This is why they will give her all their 
money and not because they are of the earth very 
earthy. 

Do you waggle your head at me? Do you? 
Then I care not a straw. It only means you do 
not comprehend the ways of men at our frontier 
posts. 

Some men are here preparing to take the wagon 
trail to Grand Prairie in the Peace River District. 
This trail, they tell me, is one hundred and fifty 
miles long, and may be traversed in six days, a 
journey which from other points formerly took as 
many weeks. Hitherto, it has seemed the far- 
away edge of the world, a place for none save the 
adventurous blooded and sturdy, but in this day it 



A FRONTIER POST 17 

seems to iw ill our very door, ior, in the North, one 
hundred and fifty miles is merely a stone's east. 
In the spring, fifteen thousand homesteads will be 
thro\\7i open for entry, so that presently it wdll 
seem that all creation is trekking this way. 

And w^hy not? It requires no fore-vision to 
know that the land has a future above anxiety. 
Up this trail there is a new world to be possessed, 
an unequalled empire, in which men may go hither 
and yon as they please. It gives my feet a staccato 
movement to think of it. Some city folk there are 
who might fear the trail, but this were foolish. It 
is good to ride on a long trail and laugh out loud 
for sheer joy. On the t^ail, the ear of Society is 
closed and there are smoked goggles on her eyes. 

I have been talking to a stripling from Nova 
Scotia, who has been here these four months. 
AVhen first he came, there were but three girls in 
the village; now, there are eighteen. As a result 
of this increased immigration, the weekly dance is 
better attended and is more amicable. 

Besides his ^utfit, this Nova Scotian is taking 
in a year's provision to his homestead, and so has 
been working to secure a sufficiency of money. 
He hopes to get a steading that will one day be- 
come a town site. This is the dream of every 
northern farmer: it is the gold at the foot of the 
rainbow. Perhaps, my Boy o' Dreams may find 
it. Who can say? Providence keeps a closer eye 
on farmers than we imagine. As yet, the boy has 
not persuaded any girl to accompany him to Grand 
Prairie, I would go myself only (I had the reason 



18 SEEDS OF PINE 

a minute ago but it has escaped me) ; what was it? 
Oh yes ! I remember now, I am already married. 
The Land of Cockaigne could not have been situate 
in the North, for in that most blessed land every 
Jack has his Jill and found no difficulty in keeping 
her. No ! it was never in this latitude. 

I went to two hotels before I could find a room. 
I should have registered at once instead of loiter- 
ing at the station. In the first hotel they could 
eat me, but to sleep me was out of the question. 
In the second, a stout well-looking German — or, 
as I prefer to call him, a coming Canadian — took 
possession of me, remarking in one breath, but 
with an air of great punctilio, ' ' You would in my 
house put up? Der conductor-man he so told me 
you to me might come. This my wife is. You 
should become to each other kno\\Ti. She a bed 
for you will get — water! — towels! — whatsoever 
Madam she may desire." 

''Urbanity" is the one word that fits the 
German, my host. His Frau, who is of the pure 
Teutonic type, has a heart of great goodness, with 
emotions that lie close under the exterior. 

All might have been well with me at this hotel, 
but, unfortunately, in descefiding the closed-in 
stairway, I stepped on a sleeping cat and plunged 
headforemost to the bottom. . . ."Der drouble 
mit you," says my host, "a crick in der back is." 
The cat's "drouble" seems to be paralysis. 

Some one has said that reserve is a sign of great 
things behind. Sweet Christians ! this is entirely 
true; I realized it to the full while holding back 



A FRONTIER POST 19 

the tears and assuring the assembled household I 
was not even jarred. I am proud of the way I 
behaved, and sorry my own folk were not there to 
see. Now, they will never believe it. 

One of the maids brought me brandy wliieh I 
did not drink, but after awhile, my hostess fed it 
to me in what she called canards. You dip a 
lump of sugar into the cognac and transfer the 
lump to your mouth — that is all. You could never 
believe how nice they taste, or how curative they 
are for ** crick" in the back. 

Before long I am able to limp down the street 
and call on the doctor. I used to know him in 
days when we both lived farther south. But any 
way, a previous acquaintanceship would have made 
no difference. We do not need introductions at a 
frontier post like this, for there is an undercurrent 
of good fellowship which understands that the 
stranger who talks to you is not necessarily a 
scalawag, with subtle designs on your purse or 
your person. Any one who fails to grasp this 
plainly obvious fact is either a newcomer or a 
solenm humbug. 

This doctor has charge of the hospital car that 
lies in the station yard, and most of his time is 
spent travelling from camp to camp dowTi the line 
of construction. I saw the car to-day, or rather 
I nosed it, for the smell of iodoform came sif tingly 
through like dry cold. It is owned and operated 
by the railway company for the benefit of their 
employees. At certain stations along the line, the 
company have placed cottage hospitals where 



L'O SEEDS OP PINE 

emergency cases are treated. Those who have 
fevers or require major operations, are usually 
taken to the city. 

Long ago, when the earlier railroads were being 
constructed it was not possible to supply such life- 
saving appurtenances, so that nothing remained 
for the wretched fellow\s but to drag themselves 
away and die like hurt dogs. There is a current 
aberration that the golden age was * ' once upon a 
time," but, in my opinion, it is here and now, or at 
least it will be when every municipality has insti- 
tuted classes to teach policemen the difference 
between drunkenness and a fit. I will say a prayer 
about this some of these days. One must be 
business-like. 

As he builds up and smokes a cigarette, the 
doctor tells me that the navvies and teamsters 
have a singularly critical taste in the matter of 
medicine. They do not like tablets or medicine 
with an innocent flavour. Unless it be distinctly 
pungent, they feel cheated. 

**Do you accede to their demand?" ask I. 

**I do. Good Lady," says he. ''It is modesty 
that prevents my describing to you the excellency 
of my flavours" (and here he assumed a truly 
sagacious air): ''my medicines have 'nip' to 
them and a body that is really desirable. They 
are indescribable, but most they approach the 
little girl's definition of salt — 'that which makes 
potatoes taste bad when you do not eat it with. ' ' ' 

"I see. Dear Lady, you are still of inquisitive 
mind," says this Man of Medicine. "Yes! I can 



A FRON'TTKR POST 21 

seo that and i dare say yuu will put nie in a book, 
so I shall not rise to your questions — not I! Let 
us prefer to talk of how we shall invest our money 
when we sell our lots, and things like that." 

*' Real-estate is a valuable asset in this place," 
continues he, *'if you buy it 'near in' on the 
original town site, but three miles out of the sub- 
divisions, it is equal in value to a pop-corn prize. 
And yet who can say.' AVho knows? In these 
new places, the bread we cast on the sub-divisions 
has a way of returning to us in meat and pie and 
cake. It is often the height of wisdom to be 
foolish. That singularly unattractive person on 
the doorstep across the way — the shrunken, 
hollow-stomached one — has made much money in 
buying and selling." 

''Do you believe me I" he asks with some trace 
of heat; "then pray heaven speak!" For I have 
fallen into silence. But I will not speak — not one 
word — but only smile in an enigmatical way, for 
the stop I am pulling out is one of intended in- 
difference. It is about the nav^^es and teamsters 
I would talk and not of hollow-stomached men who 
gather much money. 

The doctor rolls up two cigarettes and offers 
nie one. 

"You will smoke f" asks he. 
"No!" says I, "not till I am sLxty." 
"Let me see your palm and your nails. Humph! 
Lady, you had better start now as a mere matter 
of expediency. Why not try this one! Where's the 



22 SEEDS OF PINE 

use of a mouth and an index linger if you do not 
smoke ? " 

Now, I cannot say why I do not smoke, except 
that there are so many reasons why I should, and 
so I return to our first topic and ask, "Does your 
medicine make the men well again?" 

*'No, no , decidedly no!" he replies — *'they 
allow me to hold no such illusion. The talismans 
they carry, work the cure — a bear 's tooth, a lucky 
penny, or the image of a calendar saint. A snake's 
rattle is a panacea for anything but a broken 
heart. Time was when men only choked on grape 
seeds as did the old poet chap, Anacreon, but in 
these days, the navvies get appendicitis from them. 
It would be offensive to suggest other causes, in 
sjjite of the fact that most of them never taste 
grapes. No ! it would not be right for me to put 
my patients in the wrong and shockingly poor 
policy. ' ' 

"Have you much trouble with drunkenness?" 
I query. 

"Not a great deal!" he makes answer, "for 
the Mounted Police have a disconcerting habit of 
probing into bales of hay and of finding false floors 
in wagons. They have fifty-fox power, these 
police fellows, although I have heard tell that a 
gallon or more of whisky has been within roping 
distance of them and escaped. A bottle that gets 
by them is worth ten dollars, but the navvies de- 
clare whatever it costs it is worth it. But, dear me, 
there are other liquids for inordinate and uncriti- 
cal thirsts, such as " 



A FRONTIER POST 23 

"Your meiiieine ? " 1 suggest, whereupon our 
conversation abruptly ends, for he will be no 
longer beset by me; and he will not give me a 
bottle of liniment for "crick" in the back; no, not 
if I die in Edson, without even a graveyard start- 
ed wherein to bury me. He supposes Providence 
knows his business, but how ever woman came to 
be made is a mystery far beyond his wit's end. 

Huh! Huh! I am tingling to scratch this man's 
eyes out, but I only call him a brown pirate. 

Do you think I care so much as a snap of the 
fingers for the medicine of this spiteful doctor of 
the countryside! Not a bit of it! One of the 
navvies will give me a talisman if I cannot find the 
cordial tree for which I search. It grows in the 
North, and the fruit gives life to strong people 
and faintness to the weak. It was Theophile Trem- 
blay who told me about it. He lives always in the 
woods. Once, he found the tree but he was afraid 
to eat of it, for how could he know whether he was 
strong or weak? He has heard tell that, in the 
tree, there is a wood's-woman and that sometimes 
she laughs aloud, but he thinks it may be a soul 
or something like that. 

The only drawback to happiness is the peculiar 
impermanence of its character. Happiness is a 
large, comely person, but, withal, as elusive as the 
smallest sprite. Such hours of pain as I spent last 
night on this wretched sagging bed — I who was so 
happy only yesterday — with nothing to look at 
save a little lamp with a flame like a bleary red 



24 SEEDS OF PINE 

eye. Truth to tell, it was the eye that looked at me. 
It stared till I became hypnotized, when by the 
blessing of God. I fell asleep. 

This morning, I am consmiied between a desire 
to get up and one to lie still. In all such crises of 
the win, it is better to follow the line of least re- 
sistance, and so I lie in bed. My hostess brings me 
an amazingly pungent liniment which she calls 
**Herr the Doctor's medisome." It came last 
night, but Daisy, who is a Avaitress, neglected to 
deliver it. Perhaps the sarcastic advice which tlie 
doctor set down for me under the word "Poison," 
may have frightened Daisy. 

"She a lump is, that Daisy!" says the Frau. 
"Believe me. Madam, for I know. I tell her a 
thing to do and she doing it keeps on, till I to 
stop tell her. Then I to her explain that she is 
not for ever to stop, nor for ever on to go, and all 
the time, about everything, I have her so to tell." 

The Frau pours on the liniment wuth generous 
measure and rubs me till I prickle with it, and feel 
for all the world like a wet newspaper caught in a 
wire fence. She rubs me with a used-to-things 
way until I beg her to desist. I should not be 
surprised if Herr the Doctor took this means of 
venting his spitefulness on me. 

The Frau tells me she had a vision once. I 
wish to experience a vision, or a miracle, but noth- 
ing comes to me save presentments which have 
their terrible plain origin on the basis of cause 
and effect. Her vision was about heaven. She 
saw heaven quite distinctly and the streets were 



A FRONTIER POST 25 

really made of gold. There were no children 
there, but only men and women, so that there must 
be a special Paradise for boys and girls. The 
Frau believes heaven will be a failure because 
there is no division of the sexes provided for. 
How, she would like to know, could a woman enjoy 
heaven with men there all the time looking at 
everything she does. It would be an impossible 
situation. 

After awhile, Daisy brings me a meal. There is 
a tremendous finality about the way she sets down 
a tray. Daisy, in spite of her name, is not so much 
a housemaid as what they used to call a stout 
serving wench. She is courtly neither in figure 
nor manners. Her hair is puffed out over her ears 
and dra^vTi do^\^l low, till her head looks like the 
husk of a hazel nut. But what odds! Daisy is 
splendidly plebeian and really of more value to the 
community than a writing person who falls down- 
stairs. She cannot see for the life of her how I 
happened to come out here, and so I am apologetic 
and find it necessary to explain. She asks per- 
mission to try on my hat and tells me she has 
ordered a new one from Edmonton. It is to have 
three "ostridge" feathers. 

To assure me that the cat I stepped upon is not 
dead, she descends to the kitchen and returns with 
it. The cat seems all right except that it sags in 
the middle, but Daisy says this is because it has 
just been fed. I am glad I did not kill it, in that 
I always associate a cat with Diana Bubastis, the 
Egj-ptian goddess who presided over childbirth, 



26 SEEDS OF PINE 

and who was represented with a feline head. 
Indeed, Bubastis is said to have transformed her- 
self into a cat when the gods fled from Egypt — a 
play of gods and women and eats that has contin- 
ued even to this very day. 

After dinner, I am able to go down to the side- 
walk where I fribble away the hours agreeably 
enough. It is a sun-shot afternoon, but the air 
is cool to one 's skin, and grateful after the scorch- 
ing heat of yesterday. 

Some civil engineers who came in on the train 
with me are playing baseball on the road. These 
are no aesthetic feeblings, these merry gentlemen, 
but a sturdy breed, upstanding and handsome, 
with skin like the colour of well-seasoned saddles 
and a smell of burnt poplar in their hair. I think 
the rough clothes they wear throw their good looks 
into relief. Or it may be that the people are better 
looking in the North and have better physiques. 
It must be so, for the South has in all ages drawn 
upon the northern blood for rejuvenation just as, 
in these days, they need hard wheat to tone up 
their softer varieties. 

I write of them as merry gentlemen because 
this fornight agone I had been watching them 
make ducks and drakes of their savings. When 
they come to Town, which they do once or twice a 
year, they cannot be accused of nearness. Each 
mother's son holds to the amended maxim of this 
country, ''Hard come, easy go." Jack ashore," 
I called one the other day. "Possibly so! 
Possibly," answered the delicious boy, "but I 



A FRONTIER POST 27 

for to think of myself as March — in like a lion 
i out like a lamb." 

The whole Towti is a foraging pasture for the 
engineers on vacation. They buy everything they 
do not need, from gramaphone records and swear- 
ing parrots to Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the 
Roman Empire. They yell into the telephones as 
if it were a lung tester, and it makes their hearts 
(lance like daffodils to hire taxicabs for the day, 
l)oxe8 at the theatre, and to give suppers and 
(lances to all and sundry of their acquaintances. 
Xtither are they laggards in love. They are 
vastly appreciative of the girls, and I am told go 
sweethearting with a directness there is no pos- 
sibility of misunderstanding. It is well the girls 
do not take them too seriously, for they are roving 
bachelors all, and would seem to be as faithful as 
the poet who vows his love for Kate, and Margaret 
and Betty and Sweet Marie. 

Yet, once in a blue moon, an engineer and a girl 
make decision *'to be man and wife together," and 
to live in a shack on the Residency, much to 
the annoyance of the townsmen, who dislike the 
engineers, being inordinately jealous of them. 

The game of baseball which the engineers carry 
forward on the highway is strenuous rather than 
scientific. Things that are considered important 
in the league matches have no significance here. 
As I watch the pitch and toss of the ball, it occurs 
to me that this game has filtered down the ages 
from the primeval woods where orang-outangs 
threw nuts from tree to tree. They pitch them 



28 SEEDS OP PINE 

that the young lady 'rangs might admire their 
cleverness and good form. You may credit me 
this was the way of it. 

A Chinaman and some Indians are also watching 
the game. The Indians think it fine fun, and fetch 
and carry the lost balls like spaniels retrieving 
sticks. I like the Indian men for several reasons, 
but chiefly because they are shrewd riders ; have a 
sovereign indifference to appearance, and never 
quarrel over theology. 

The game of ball was not completed, the interest 
of the players being diverted by a blindly vindic- 
tive fight between a staghound and a bulldog. I 
did not see the conclusion of the fight, but the hon- 
ours lay with the bulldog. ''For you must know, 
Dear Lady, ' ' explains one of the engineers, ' ' that 
all things considered, the grip on the throat is an 
eminently practical one." 



CHAPTER III 



TO THE BUILDERS 



To the builders of the highway, that skirt the canyon's brink. 

To the men that bind the roadbed fast. 

To the high, the low, the first and last, 
I raise iiiv i'l;i^s and drink! 

EVKLTK GCKXC 

AS yet, there is no passenger service from 
Edson to tlie End of Steel. Several day 
coaches are run, but they are chiefly for 
the use of the engineers and workmen. This is 
how I happen to be the only woman aboard pull- 
ing out for the mountains across this newly-made 
trail. 

Do not misunderstand me; it is the railroad 
that is new. The trail that runs by its side was an 
old one when Columbus discovered America, and 
beaten deep wdth feet, and also it is a long trail, 
for it leads through to the Pacific Ocean. For 
centuries, it was the only mark of human interfer- 
ence in this waste that is world-old. It is a trail 
of lean hunger and bleeding feet, one that has ever 
been prodigal of promise, but wary of accomplish- 
ment. Surely this is so, for once over it stumbled 
and swore those half-mad men known as the 
Caribou Stampeders — these, and other unwept, 
unhonoured fellows who fared into the wilderness 

29 



30 SEEDS OF PINE 

for what reasons even the wise Lord knoweth not. 
If the bones of the red and white folk who have 
travelled this long, long street were stood upright, 
I doubt not they would make a fence of pickets for 
us all the way. 

I have no sooner thought this thing than it 
happens there is a dry stirring and, in an eye- 
wink of time, the dead men have taken on flesh 
and colour. They must have been keenly near. 
Grim, plainish fellows are they, not unlike the 
gang around me, but rougher-clad and more hairy. 
They are powerful and full-lifed men, I can see 
that, and the rough-necked one with the trail 
stride and mop of curly hair is Alexander Mac- 
Kenzie, a Scotchman from Inverness, but late of 
Messrs. Gregory & Co.'s counting-house. He is 
''down North" endeavouring to open out a trade 
with the Indians, obtaining a foothold they doubt- 
less call it; his masters, the Nor '-West Fur Com- 
pany — for monopolists are always sensitive to 
terms. His is a continental errand ( mark this 
well), for he is the first white man to cross the 
Rockies, and to tell us what lies over and beyond 
the hills where the sun goes down. Honour to 
Alexander MacKenzie, Esq., of Inverness, say I! 
Some day, when Messrs. the Publishers give me 
fuller royalties, I shall surely build a cairn to 
him on the height of land e 'er it falls away to the 
"Western Sea. 

This man lived more than a century ago, and 
yet, as his figure fades back into nothingness, we 
see this other figure close by. It is David Thomp- 



TO TTTF RT'ILDERS 31 

son, the AN'elshman, who lias recently discovered 
a river, and has called it by his own name. Also, 
lie has captured the Astoria fur-trade, and has 
established a trading post, which future genera- 
tions will know as Kamloops. 

And here is Sir George Simpson, Resident 

lovernor of the Hudson's Bay Company. He Ukes 

to travel with pipers who go before him, piping as 

lie enters a fort in order that Lo, the Red Man, 

may be properly impressed. 

The ugly person with the harshly aggressive 
features is Sir James Douglas. He looks as fully 
pen to conWncement as a stone pavement. This 
spalpeen near by is none other than young Lieu- 
tenant Butler of Ireland. He is gathering ma- 
terial for a volume he proposes to call The Great 
Lone Land. I like the way he carries his head. 
Who runs may read him for a fighter with a 
fighter's build. 

But on they go, and on, this long procession of 
pioneers, till we can only call out their names as 
they file by — Dr. Hector, Daniel Harmon, Vis- 
ount Milton, Alexander Henry, Dr. Cheadle, and 
other lean, laborious fellows, long since passed 
into the shadows. Dead men do tell tales. You 
nay hear if you care to listen. 

And what a strange thing has come to pass in 
liese latter months! The tenuous, twisting trail — 
that very old trail — has been superseded by a 
(lean white road that is like to a long bowstring. 
Its impotent, creeping life has given way before 
tiie gallant onslaught of pick and spade, chain 



32 SEEDS OF PINE 

and transit, and before monstrous lifting ma- 
chines which have other names, but which are 
really leviathans. 

Hitherto, it may be said of this land what was 
once said of Rome, that the memory sees more 
than the eye. This is no longer true. Before we 
realize it, Baedeker will be setting douTi a star 
opposite the name of a fashionable hotel in the 
Athabaskd Valley, and the whole of this morning 
world, from end to end, will be spotted with a 
black canker of towns. Right glad am I to go 
through it this day with a construction party, and 
for my own satisfaction to mentally tie together 
the threads of the Past and Present. And who 
knows but in a century from now some curious 
boy in one of these to\\Tis may find this record in 
an attic rubbish-heap, and may rejoice with me 
over the knotted threads. (I love you, boy! you 
must know this.) 

My fellows of the AVay, who are young engin- 
eers, tell me the peculiarity of each cut and grade 
and the difficulties they encountered. They do not 
speak of stations but of ''Mile 48" or ''Mile 60," 
by which they mean 48 miles from Wolf Creek. 
The raihA'ay, when completed, will measure 3,556 
miles. They talked of other matters mathematical, 
much to my bewilderment, but from which I, for 
myself, ultimately deducted that while the genie 
who built Aladdin's palace in a night Avas the 
champion contractor of fairy-tale countries, he is 
not to be mentioned in the same breath as these 
master-men who blaze out this metal highway 
towards the sea. 



TO THE RT'ILDERS 33 

Eacli engineer lives on a residency which is 
twelve miles long, and it is his duty to supervise 
the work of grading in his division. This duty 
occupies about eighteen months, when he is moved 
on to another residency. 

The men placed in a residency camp are an 
engineer, an instrument man, a rod man, two 
chain men and a cook. Over these camps, there 
are placed the chief engineer at Winnipeg; the 
divisional engineer at the End of Steel; and 
assistant divisional engineers, who may locate at 
different points from fifty or sixty miles apart. 

The grading itself is built by contractors, and 
ub-contractors, down to station men, who with 
the aid of spades, picks and wheelbarrows, built 
a hundred feet. All these are paid by the yard 
and according to the nature of the soil or rock. 
The station men work from five in the morning 
until nine or ten at night, and make from five to 
ten dollars a day each. The blasters are kno^vn 
by the uneuphemistic title of ** rock-hogs." 

The first engineers who scouted had a hard time 
in their unsplendid isolation, but now that the 
rails are catching up, life on the residencies is 
more pleasant than one might imagine. The shack 
is fairly warm and comfortable and the Powers 
that Be supply to the men an abundance of the 
best food procurable, with a reasonable portion 
of dainties. The Powers doubtless recognize the 
distant advisability of keeping the engineers 
and their assistants in health and temper, for 
after all, nothing is so expensive as sickness. Still, 



34 SEEDS OF PINE 

the men are hy no means petted. It is true 
that one engineer has a pair of sheets, but these 
are the talk, and possibly the envy, of all the 
residence 's on the line. When visitors come to his 
residency they sleep between the sheets, while 
their chivalric host betakes himself to the long 
desk that is built for map work. 

Each residency has a gramophone, and some of 
them have small menageries, including pet bears. 
In the summer, after hours, the men have out- 
door games such as baseball and tennis. They have 
been able on several occasions to secure a suffici- 
ently large attendance of women to have a dance. 
It may happen that the engineer is married and 
that his wife has girl- visitors, which party may be 
augmented by a visiting contingency from the 
residency twelve miles further down the grade, or 
some such fortunate happening as this. It is 
a heyday, I can tell you, when this happens. 

They do not qu&rrel in the residencies as mis- 
sionaries do at their posts, although a man some- 
times gets moody. All through the winter they 
talk over everything they did when last in town, 
and what every one else did. Between times, they 
can watch the married engineers and declare how 
much better the bachelors are situated. Purple 
grapes were ever sour. They told me about other 
things, but I forget them; besides, they are 
secrets. 

One of the engineers gathers me some flowers 
at a wayside station, concerning which the others, 
with full-throated laughter, propounded riddles. 



TO THE BUILDERS 35 

'"Wlieii ilid he ast-er?" **Ho\v niiR-li did the 
rose raise?'* **Who gave Susan her black eye!" 
These, and otlier problems of peculiar interest to 
young bloods, the solution of which we shall 
never know till flowers learn to speak plainer. 

The riddle, **Wliy does the willow weep!" 
elicits a discussion on music, and on the sound 
of the wind in the pines. One man says he has 
read somewhere that violin makers construct their 
instruments out of the north sides of trees. He 
does not know if this be true, but I think it must 
be, for the urging of the north wind in the trees 
and the soft calling of the violin, are one and the 
same. They both allure to a land where no one 
lives. You must have observed this yourself. 

One rueful rascal with no civic conscience, and 
an overweening appreciation of his. sex, gives it as 
his opinion that this is an ill-reasoned theory. 
He declares the sound to be a screeching crescendo 
that has its origin in an implacable quarrel be- 
tween the ^vind and the pines. The wind is a suf- 
fragette, a woman of determined grievance, who 
would be better of bit and bridle and possibly of 
gag. She makes the pine a butt for her insult and 
ridicule and a target against which she lashes the 
liail and drives her shrewish snow. When not 
grappling his throat with her plaguing, pestilent 
fingers, it is only because she is recoiling to strike 
again. She calls this "a spell o' weather." 

It is a bitter monologue this leather-fleshed, 
lathy-framed fellow gives me, and I takes it as 
a body blow, but I answer not a word, for I have 



36 SEEDS OF PINE 

heard it said, or perhaps I have read it, that tlie 
meek will own the earth; besides — you can try 
it yourself — nothing so puzzles the understanding 
of mortal man as a woman who refuses to go on 
defence. Her silence fills him with a gnawdng 
uneasiness similar to that one feels when he has 
swallowed a tack. 

And yet I would like to tell him he has over- 
stated his case; to point out that the trees are 
cross-grained to the wind; that their green 
spectacles prevent their seeing things in proper 
perspective, and that they are deep-rooted in 
obsolete prejudices. Sir Pine cannot escape being 
an intractable old person, seeing that woman's 
suffrage was not the rule seventy-five years ago, 
or more, when he was born. Yes ! I should have 
liked to say this, but it is almost as equal satis- 
faction to score a verbal chicane. 

I think, perhaps, the men felt my silence more 
than I intended, for they argue the anti-suf- 
fragist out of countenance, although I have no 
doubt they secretly and sincerely agree vdth him. 
To change the subject, one of them brings me a 
caged squirrel he is taking to his residency. Punch 
is a well-groomed squirrel and has an immoderate 
tongue. His owner says that in the mountains 
these red squirrels collect and dry mushrooms. 
They group them on a rock, or fix them in the 
forks of young trees, ultimately banking them in 
hollow logs. He ts trying to tame Punch, but then 
we have all heard of the American who tried to 
tame an oyster. 



TO THE BUILDERS 37 

Punchinello is as active as pop-corn in a pan. 
He is a squirrel with a job, and not nearly so 
light-minded as he looks. His job is to go round 
and round on a wheel but never to make progress, 
for the wheel is so s^\'ung that it revolves with 
him. I am appalled by the absolute inutility of 
it. What a life! What a life! Wearing out a 
wheel and himself at one and the same time. *'Let 
him go when you get to the woods,'* say I, **it 
will be kinder. You have heard of those Eastern 
folk, who, when they wish to praise Allah, buy 
birds and set them free." 

"No! I have not heard," he replies; '*tell me 
about them." 

"There is no more to the story, that is all." 

"But I don't see the application when a fellow 
does not want to render praises. I invested part 
of my savings at the races and the tenor of my 
success was markedly uneven. I bought town 
lots, hoping to sell before the second pa>Tnent — 
* Stung' — Yes! it's as good a word as any. The 
father of my best girl has cursed me to the tenth 
generation." 

"For what?" 

"Oh! for a newspaper item which concerned 
me. I vdW allow it would have been just as well 
had it not appeared, but there it was! There it 
was! Xo! I cannot see any special reason why 
I should set the squirrel free. Besides" (and 
here he speaks softly and with a kindly persuasive- 
ness, as if he had butter in his mouth), "this 
Punchinello is a sweet-toothed fell<»\v, and the 



38 SEEDS OF PINE 

cook will feed him daintily; he has no store set 
by for the winter; no drey, no mate; he is not 
properly furred for exposure, and he would not 
Imow how to protect himself against the hawks 
and stoats. Surely, you would^ not have him go 
free? I tell you the thing would be cruelty itself, 
and I will not do it. " 

You see, he does not know this matter is a 
personal one with me, I mean the wheel that goes 
round and , never gets anywhere. If he did it 
would probably make no difference, for the 
pecularity about his arguments are their sincerity 
and wisdom. I always did suspect that Providence 
was a large serene young man with a strain of 
steel in him. 

At Bickerdike, all tlie engineers I knew got out. 
Some are stationed here; some await orders, but 
most of them go down the branch line that is 
under construction from this point. Bickerdike 
is largely a tent to^ATi, although, as yet, it is the 
metropolis of the Grade. I heard one man on 
the train tell another it was **one of these here 
high-society places where folks dance on a plank 
floor and don't call off the figures." I promise to 
visit at Bickerdike on my return trip with some 
friends I have not seen for years. No matter 
where you come from, it would be almost impos- 
sible to drop off at any of these little frontier 
posts without meeting some one you knew else- 
where, so representative is the population of this 
Northern country. 

At each post the same question is asked the 
newly-arrived passenger. "Well, what's the news 



TO iiiE iii ii.uEHS 39 

along the road?" To-day the news concerns 
a wash-out near the End of Steel, and doubts 
are expressed as to the possibility of our getting 
through. 

At Marlboro, the people are talking of their 
cement industry, and at the next station lumber 
is the topic. They are making the lumber out of 
spruce. The small logs have been converted into 
railway ties. Some of them are crossed. If ever 
you have *' taken out" ties you know w^hat 
this means. As you likely haven't, I'll tell you. 
The railroad contractor, when he rejects a tie, 
crosses the end of it with a blue or red pencil. 
Once an acquaintance of mine, by name Jerry 
Dalton, took out a cut of ties in the Province 
of Saskatchewan. One day Jerry — an accurate 
man rather than a placid one — was stamping 
about somewhat more rampageous than a baited 
bull. 

*'AVhat is the matter now, Man Jerry!" I 
asked; "you are always having a big sorrow." 

"Sorrow ith it?" lisped Jerry at the top of 

his tall voice. "Look at them d ties (begging 

your pardon, ma'am). Look at them ties! Does 
that turkey-faced, muddle-headed id jit of a con- 
tractor think I'm running a Catholic themetery? 
Crosses ith it? It's crosses he's after giving 
Jerry! Troth! an' it's a crown I'll be puttin' on 
liini.'' . . . 

And so as I look at this pile of crossed logs by 
the wayside, I am wondering who is the rascal 
i('si)(iiisi])1t' fof llu' Cnfliollc t)i('nu*t(M'v. 




40 SEEDS OF PINE 

These mills belong to a Northern timber chief 
whose large holdings have made them turbulent. 
They have called him a timber-wolf, and other 
names that are smart rather than polite. As a 
matter of fact, any man who pays the government 
dues and converts the trees into lumber for the 
use of the settlers, deserves all the emoluments 
that can possibly accrue. On account of floods 
and fires, lumbering is a precarious industry, and 
the majorit}^ of operators fail thereat or carry 
a nerve-grinding overdraft at the bank. 

And did you ever stand on the heights and watch 
a rising, ripping flood bear out your booms and 
incidentally the year's logs? If you have, my 
good little man, you'll be sensible to something 
closely approximating a tender regard for the 
timber-wolves. This play of lamb and wolf is 
frequently disastrous to the wolf. 

I would like to rest off here to see the whip-saw 
bite into the logs ; to watch the long white boards 
as they fall from the carriage, and to drink in their 
refreshing odour, for the whole essence of the 
North is concentrated in the odour of the spruce. 

Big Eddy takes its name from the whirlpool 
formed by the confluence of the McLeod River 
and the Sun Dance Creek. The creek is an 
impetuous, capering stream that leaps to the 
McLeod as a little laughing girl would throw 
herself into the arms of her father. This is the 
fairest tarrying place I have seen this way, and 
fit for a ball-room of the dryads. Down in the 
valley beside the great bridge, the divisional 



TO THE BUILDERS 41 

-engineer has built liim a wide house of logs, with 
hospitable porches and chimneys that suggest 
generous fireplaces. I covet his right, title and 
ownership thereto. They say this engineer is 
seventy-eight years old, but I don't believe it. 

** Beyond all doubt he is," says one of the train 
officials; ** believe me, he has eaten up his teeth 
at the work of building roads, and he has a heart 
of great goodness." 

''A strong man, is he?" I ask. 

*'\Vhy, I cannot say, only that he sticks to his 
work and takes the trail with the best of them. 
The men say he is 'sun-ripened,' which I am 
convinced means something paiseworthy, for 
every man is his friend." 

The Canadian Northern Railway Company is 
running a line immediately parallel to this of the 
Grand Trunk Pacific, and as I look out of my 
window I can see the men at work on the rival 
road. They are the primal ploughers of the land, 
these railway fellows, and can cut a valley out of 
a hill, like it were the rip of a brutal blade. To 
my thinking, this is an enterprise of high heart 

and bravery And yet, as I watch them at 

work, heaping up a grade, they seem small to me, 
and paltry, like dirty boys intent on nothing more 
serious than mud-pies. In some places, they build 
through marshy dunes that are coppery-brown 
and ta%\Tiy-red. "Walking in these places is like 
walking upstairs all the way, or like treading in 
deep straw, forms of exercise most certainly 
concomitant with heart disease and a hackney 



42 SEEDS OF PINE 

gait. Westward they go and Westward, these 
uncouth moving pictures of the landscape, that 
change well-nigh as quick as those on a canvas, but 
always it is a picture of a grade, a new cut, a 
gridiron of ties, and long, long trails of steel. I 
tell you, these trails are the heartstrings of the 
North. 

But you must not think that the only builders 
are the men. The horses, mules and oxen help. 
Some folk there are who mislike the oxen, but 
these are foolishly prejudiced and ill-informed. 
The ox, it is true, has a tiresome straddling gait, 
and his brain is small in comparison with the bulk 
of his head, but contrariwise he retains a stolid 
reliability that keeps him at his job. Once in- 
spanned, he has no desire to kick over the traces 
or to explore foreign parts; he doesn't bite his 
trace-mate, or engage in any of those little playful 
jinks so strangely peculiar to northern horses and 
northern men, not he . . . the ox is a good sort, 
and one who strictly attends to business. He is 
an animal that walks in the light. There are 
northern men who will doubtless resent these re- 
marks, so I may as well explain that my com- 
parisons have been prompted by the conduct 
of "the gang" which offends my sense of 
decency. 

The '* happy low lie down" all over the car in 
various stages of intoxication. How hideous they 
are with their unshaven faces, open mouths and 
yellow teeth! Abroad they are silly; at home 
they are heart-scalds. As they sprawl over the 



TO THE BUILDERS 43 

floor like hlige primeval toads, I am consumed by 
a desire to kick them with my boots. Drunken- 
ness is a disgusting, unfleshed sin. 

And yet, tliese prostrate fellows are hardly 
more offensive than those still able to sit up and 
debate about nothing. As controversialists they 
remind me of the characters in Alice through the 
Looking-GIass, who want *'to deny something and 
don't know what it is." When any over- wise 
babbler feels himself worsted in an argument, he 
says to his oponent, "You are a liar." While 
fairly popular, this argument can hardly be con- 
sidered a logical one. It can be claimed, however, 
to cover the whole ground, and to be a master- 
piece of brevity. 

One fellow, who reeled through the car in a 
molluscous invertebrate condition, stopped by my 
seat to tell me he was my friend for life. He was 
old enough to have known better, and I was glad 
when a glorious, tall stranger collared the fellow 
and hurtled him dowTi the aisle like a hockey- 
player would hurtle the puck. 

Soon afterwards the train's agent, a civil- 
spoken young man, came into the car and took mo 
into his caboose. I knew something fortunate 
would happen on this journey. . . . And to think it 
came just as my nomad spirit had failed me, and 
I was utterly crumpled with weariness and 
hunger. 

1 would here desire to reiterate my belief that 
Providence is a large, serene young man, with 
a strain of steel in him. 



CHAPTER IV 



BEHIND THE HILLS- 



"Behind the hills, that's where the fairies are, 
Behind the hills, that's where the sun goes down." 

I FELL asleep in the cupola of the caboose and 
dreamed that my head was a rubber band 
holding too many notes, and that it was going 
to snap any second. "Hit's the bloomin' halti- 
tude in your 'ead, Ma'am," explained a Cockney 
later, and I expect he was right, for we have made 
an ascent of over one thousand feet since leaving 
Edmonton. 

When I awake the train is standing stock-still. 
Here is the trouble! the heavy rains have been 
playing havoc with the newly-made grades that 
liave hardly been shaken doMH to stay, and pro- 
gress is necessarily slow till the proper ballast 
has been laid on. Outside, on the grade, the lire- 
man is swearing with remarkable precision. His 
language is not exactly that described by the 
Prayer-book as "comfortable words," but then, 
a man who fires up with slack coal when the ther- 
mometer is sometimes thirty degrees below zero 
naturally becomes proficient in the use of secular 
expletives. 

44 



BEHIND THE HILLS 45 

1 open my window above him and say very 
distinctly, *' Wicked man! swear not by the Lord 
Christ." Then I lean back so that he may not 
see me. It must have surprised him to hear such 
a reproof in this no- woman's land. Out he goes 
and looks up and around, and up again, but I keep 
well hidden. That writer who conceived the 
horror of The Wandering Voice was no nid-noddy 
fellow, I can tell you. 

As I was thinking this very thing, a voice close 
behind said to me, ** Wicked woman! play not the 
oracles," and almost I fell out of the cupola with 
fright. It was the glorious tall stranger, and he 
was laughing mightily. I almost hated him. In- 
deed, I quite hated till I saw the joke and laughed 
too. 

He had been reading in the opposite bunk and, 
incidentally, watching so that I might not roll 
out, for it is a high climb to the cupola bunk, and 
there are no sides to it. He says that he is an 
engineer and that the boys who left the train at 
Bickerdike gave him instructions to see that I 
got through all right. Did I say mean things 
awhile ago about certain northern men? Did If 
Well then, I am a spiteful jade and my tongue 
should be split. 

He has yellow fruit for me, and cherries, but 
hands them out carefully, for the smell of steam 
from the stove shows that dinner is deliciously 
iimninent. The cook is turning cakes on a pan 
with a spat like the sound of clog-dancers on the 
stage. He turns them with a grace and in- 



46 SEEDS OF PINE 

telligence which I may never hope to equal. I have 
an idea his elbow and wrist work on ball-bearings. 

The glorious tall stranger whose name in not 
Burney (but it will do as well as any other) tells 
me he was reared down by the Miramiehi River. 
He went back East to see his mother last Christ- 
mas, but it took her some days to get used to the 
grown man who had left home a lad. I can see 
this thing in my mind's eye. His mother is very 
clever and has a beautiful face. He need not 
have told me this. It is true of every man's 
mother ''back home." 

Burney was among the first men who scouted 
for the railway to the West and helped run the 
try-lines. Falling into the pose of the raconteur 
— one very natural to the northman — he tells me 
tragic things, and some that are both tragic and 
humorous. 

One of these was about a Mounted Policeman 
who was sent out from his post to bring in a 
murderer. It was terribly cold weather, the 
mercury almost falling out of the tube. Now, 
the wanted murderer is the wariest game in the 
world, and to take him in those mountains one 
needs boldness and caution in the right pro- 
portions — that is to say ninety-nine per cent, 
of the former, and one per cent, of the latter. 
The policeman who was sent out w^as only a strip- 
ling, but there was no yellow in him save the 
streak on his trouser-legs. The round journey was 
one hundred and twenty miles, but, alone and 
unaided, he brought in his man, not even waiting 



BEHIND THE HILLS 47 

U> sH'fj). Almost iiiHiiediatfly on a (veah mount, 
he again started out from the post, but this time 
to bring in the corpse. The second hundred and 
twenty miles were terribly long and arduous ones, 
and the cold cut like a blade. By shutting your 
eyes you can see and feel this thing: the two 
froFt-covered horses plodding through the bleak 
and sterile mountains that are grim as eternity — 
no sound save the cry of starveling wolves, or the 
white wliine of the sleepless \s4nd, these and the 
sharp-dra^^'n breath of the men. Xo! we must 
be mistaken. Only one man breathes, the other 
seems strangely still, and his lips are tight shut. 
There is something peculiarly defective in his 
stony eyes and stony face. If you look closer you 
can see he is roped close to the horse, and that he 
doesn't give to the lope. . . . God of men and 
beasts ! that is a dead man that rides through the 
snow, and he rides to confront his slayer. . . . And 
when the two reached the police post, the live dare- 
doing man was found to be terriblv exhausted 
from hunger, lack of sleep, and the long, long ride, 
so that his brittle nerves were like to snap in two. 
This was how they came to give him the stimul- 
ants which in some way (it is not for a tattling 
civilian to say the way) had not entirely worn off 
when he was summoned to give evidenf'o at the 
inquest. 

The auditory consisted of engineers, and chain- 
men from the residencies who resented this grim 
sitting with a murderer, a judge and accuser, 
and the white, stark man on the table, whom 



48 SEEDS OF PINE 

presently they would put to bed with a spade. 
They w^ere sitting austerely upright with grave 
faces as became the occasion, when it came upon 
them suddenly that the police stripling was 
intoxicated. It is true he faced the judge witli an 
uncompromising attitude and stood erect, and 
''at attention" as if a perpendicular rod braced 
his body from his crown to his heels, but when the 
judge's glance w^andered for the fraction of a 
moment, the stripling would wink prodigiously at 
the engineers, and in an unholy manner that threw 
them into suppressed convulsions. The thing was 
greviously grotesque. It was as though a stone 
altar-saint had suddenly awaked and had put his 
fingers to his nose in a way that was sinister. 
Comedy with her w^ry face w^as peeping through a 
tragic mask. It is a way of hers. 

It was not until the judge observed the police- 
man constantly dropping his papers and picking 
them up in a stiff unjointed way, that the reason 
of the court 's conunotion became apparent to him. 

"What is the rest of the story?" you ask. I 
do not know. I am a reviewer of books and never 
go so far as the end. 

Sirs and Mesdames, but it is an athletic feat 
climbing out of the cupola of a caboose. I stepped 
on the shoulder of Burney, who is admirably 
strong, and then dowm to a chair. The brakesmen 
enter the cupola off the roof and have a way of 
sliding to the floor backward. It looks easy, and 
if I M'ere alone, I would surely try it. 

There were four of us for dinner, and we had 
pork and beans, beefsteak, potato-cakes, rolls, 



BEHIND THE HILLS 49 

peaches and colfee. The butler was tinned, but 
'wnthal tootlisonie, aiid so was tJie niilk. The 
butter is shipped here from Nova Scotia, and is 
supplied to all the camps on tlie road. I help 
the cook clear away the dishes, but he thinks nie 
rather unhandy, for I upset both the sugar and 
salt. He conies from Kilmarnock in Scotland, 
and is a nice lad, I can see that. He has a thicket 
of hair that stands erect from his head like a 
growth of young spruce, and he always looks as if 
he had just heard some good idea. His latest 
idea, he confides, is a job with the purveyors who 
contract for the supplies for all the grading camps 
on the line. 

Hitherto, I have always looked upon a' caboose 
as something commonplace, bnt now, I know it 
may be truly a Castle of Indolence. I have a 
sweet tooth for this kind of life, and have no 
objection to continuing it for a month. Journal- 
ists, and important people with stamped passes, 
go on private cars, but the advantage of medi- 
ocrity is that you can travel in a caboose and need 
Jiot view the scenery as a commercial commodity. 
When I can think of what to say, I will write 
a story called ''The Romance of a Railway Van." 
Its setting will be in the hills. The heroine will 
be a southern girl of probably twenty sununers 
(with a corresponding number of winters). She 
shall be no fine die-away lady, but middling strong 
and built to go out in all weather. Each move of 
the romance will be made by invisible kelpies, 
ogres and dryads, who will say **Ha! Ha!" 



aO SEEDS OF PINE 

and *'Ho! Ho!" and wlio will clap their hands 
when the wicked flourish, or valour wins against 
the odds. But I never could think this story out, 
so I pass it on to you. 

At the McLeod River the grades begin to spy 
into the mountains. These mountains have all 
the bewilderment of an elusive dream, and in the 
thin northern air seem nearer than they really 
are. There is a come-hither look about them. 
It is well, at first, to thus see from a distance, for 
to stand against a mountain is to lose one's sense 
of proportion and symmetry. 

At Prairie Creek the road runs high up on a 
ridge to the south of the Athabaska Valley, so 
that it looks like a ribbon of steel basted on to the 
hills. Tne Athabaska River is wide and swift 
here, and has .what the Japanese call the language 
of line. The Cree Indians call it the MistaJiay 
Shakow Seepee, meaning thereby the great river 
of the woods. A semi-spectral mist rises off its 
waters, as if it were an incense to the mighty 
spirit, Manitou. 

It w^ould be well if I, one of the first of the tour- 
ists who, w^orld without end, will travel through 
these hills, could tell how they impress me, but 
I am crushed into a w^ordless incompetency. I 
cannot speak the language of this land nor in- 
terpret its spirit. These hills of White Alberta 
have something to say, but they "will not say it. 
It must be true what the essayist wrote, that 
you cannot domesticate mohntains. 

There appears to be no life here, nor any form 
of sentience, but when it i? dra-k, the grizzly bear, 



BEHIND THE HILLS 51 

the lynx, tlie moose, and other night-things, will 
move out for purposes of life or death. 

Alexander Mackenzie, who entered these defiles 
one hundred and twenty-five years ago, wrote 
down that the Atnah Indians believed all this 
land was made by a mighty bird whose eyes were 
fire, the noise of his wings thunder, and the glances 
of his eyes lightning. This bird created all things 
from the earth except the ChipeAvyans, who were 
made from dogs. Now the Chipe\vyans and the 
Atnahs were not on borrowing terms. 

These were the times when the Indians were as 
plentiful in the Athabaska Valley as dandelions 
in a meadow, and they told this Mackenzie of 
Inverness how, in the good old days, their 
ancestors lived till their throats were worn out 
udth eating and their feet with walking. 

The Athabaska Valley is enclosed by a circle 
of the hills, the two most prominent of these being 
Roche Perdrix, or Folding Mountain, and Roche 
Miette. The latter peak takes its name from the 
French word roche, meaning '*rock," and miette 
which is the Cree for sheep, this because of the 
mountain-sheep which make it their home. It is 
8,000 feet high (I give you the height because it 
is not legal to go do\vn the line without so doing). 
Somewhere, near here, at Fiddle Creek, at a 
height of 1,200 feet above the railway, there are 
wonderful hot springs concerning which Burney 
talks learnedly. I pretend to understand all about 
sulphuric anhydride, and carbon dioxide, and 127 
degrees Fahrenheit, but do not really know if 



'2 yEEDS OF PINE 

there are things which should be remembered or 
forgotten. 

Other of the peaks which enclose the Valley are 
Roche Ronde, Roche Jacques, BuUrush and Roche 
Suette, Off to the west, the range of hills sil- 
houetted against the sky is knowTi as the Fiddle 
Back Range. These are crowned with snow, but 
as the sky changes, take to themselves its moods 
— coral-red, opal, stone-blue and a mellow, purple 
glow, which blend and shift like the weird fantasy 
of the auroral lights. 

It is an idea of mine that these hills arc the 
lair of the running winds M^hich for past eons 
have swept in bitter streaks across the prairies, 
winnowing them like a thresher would winnow 
grain. Seven-leagued boots have they and no 
man has tracked them down. How could a man 
when they fling dust in his eyes? They are the 
bitter scouts of the North who fight as they go. 
I have no doubt their home is hereabout. It might 
be found if we had time to stay, but this would 
take too long, for you must surely understand 
these -wdnds are non-resident to a degree that is 
nothing short of scandalous. 

At this point, we ought ^n all propriety to talk 
about Brule Lake, which is not a lake at all, but 
an enlargement of the river. We should nudge 
each other and remark that this is Jasper Park; 
that it consists of 5,450 square miles, and that it 
is held in perpetuity for the nation. I should ask, 
"Why do they call it Jasper Park?" and j^ou, 
my fine fellow-farer. should toll me how old Jasper 



BEHIND THE HILLS 53 

Ha\ver> .>.i,-- onv ol" "tlie gcntlomon adventurers" 
of the Hudson's Bay Company, and doubtless a 
purposeful man and clever. "But why do they 
call this defile 'the Yellow Head Pass!' " I should 
furtlier query, whereupon you ought to reply, *'I 
perceive you are an untaught person else you had 
heard how tliis Jasper Hawes had hair the colour 
of vSeptember wheat in the sheaf, so tliat the 
Indians called him *Tete Jaune' or 'Yellow Head,' 
nnich after our mischievous manner of turning 
about on the street to look after a lady who is 
flaxen." 

Yes! we should say all this, and more, but it 
might sound like the private car "write-up," so 
we had better not. Besides, our engine has come 
to a sit-still and will not go a step farther. The 
gossip we heard at Bickerdike about the wash-out 
has been verified. The officials in the private car 
are in no very graceful temper over this land- 
slide, and some of the men on the firing-line who 
dug and blasted and built the grade, are going to 
have their hearts cut out because of it. 

The trouble is that these vastly particular of- 
ficials conceive of the mountain into whose body 
they have slashed as a dead thing — dead as pickled 
pork — whereas it is splendidly alive. Because of 
the malapert efforts of the builders, the moun- 
tain has shaken its monstrous sides with laughter 
till the tears ran adown its face and washed out 
their puny sticks and stones. One might hint this 
to the oflicials, but one is scared to. They belong 
to the unamiable sex and are showing an anger 



54 SEEDS OF PINE 

highly disproportioned to the cause. Indeed, I 
saw a very special official put the hot end of his 
cigar in his mouth. Sometime to-night, a few flat 
ears will come from the End of Steel to convey 
the gang thither. The gang will climb up one side 
of the wash-out and down the other, and I will 
too, if the train's agent will let me, but from his 
hard-baked, non-committal manner, I glean he is 
predetermined to take me back to Edson in the 
caboose. 

The men have lighted a fire in the hills, and this 
fire seems to be the kernel of the land. Strange 
elemental figures appear . and disappear in the 
darkness as though they were performing un- 
named, unholy rites. They seem human but, per- 
haps, they are spirits, for I have some splendid 
clues that these mountains are the haunted house 
of the world. 

Here, there are eyes that watch you all the time, 
but they are hidden ; and if you have a listening 
ear you may hear voices that call. The gods come 
close in the hills. They go whispering about in 
the night and calling your name. 

Foolish folk tliere are who say that the world 
is old, and that all its songs are sung. There is 
a new song that can never be told, else I would 
tell it to you. Only it may be heard. 

A man whose face is covered by the dark is 
spinning a yarn about an engineer lad on this 
grade who truly loved an Indian girl. This is 
what he says — 



BEHIND THE HILLS 55 

"She died a week ago, and the lad was with her. 
It is a beautiful story, but I know another like 
hers. It is about a butterfly that had specks of 
gold on its wings." 

I did not see the gang climb down the crevasse 
and up the other side, but I heard the low lorn 
echo from tlie train roll up along the crags and die 
away in the snows. The train's agent said I 
could go to the End of Steel if I insisted, but 
I was not to insist. This is why I am travelling 
back to Edson. Only I am disappointed much, 
but he says I may come again soon, when no one 
shall disallow me. It would have been all right 
for me to go with the gang, and I could have 
taken care of myself: any woman could who has 
been years and years **in society." 

The agent and the Scotch boy have made a 
bed for me on a wide bench with my blankets and 
cushions. If little private, the bed looks wholly 
comfortable. 

"You'll be after loosenin' your collar," says 
the yoimg person from Kilmarnock as he fluffs 
up another cushion, "an' ye 'ull be takin' off baith 
your shoes an' your stockin's. I'll be keepin' 
the daftie loons out o' the car till ye get a bit o' 
sleep." 

For the benefit of tlie nervous readers I may 
add he does not say, "ye '11 be layin' off your 
bloose," but these are such nice lads I could do so 
with absolute propriety. 

And they turn the lamp low and shade it with 
paper while I am asking my prayer. And I pray. 



56 SEEDS OF PINE 

** Spirits of the Mountains and Rivers, be not 
angry with me for talking in the hills. Gods of 
the North, strong Gods who watch over little 
children and us older ones, let me sleep in quiet- 
ness this night, and at last bring me home in safety 
where all the lights be white ones." 

And I press my lips to the palm of my heart- 
hand to say ''Amen," and to let the gods know 
I love them. To let them know I love them ! 



CHAPTER V 

THE END OF STEEL. 

I love the hills and the hills love me 
As mates love one another. 

MacCaTUM H AOIL. 

IT is over a year since, in the last chapter, I 
was turned back from the End of Steel be- 
cause of a wash-out on construction, and now 
I am come back, but this time, through the kind- 
ness of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, on a 
through service, electric-lighted, fast-scheduled, 
no-fare excursion. And on this occasion, I am not 
the only woman on the train but merely one among 
a hundred, for this, you must know, is the trien- 
nial excursion of the women journalists and 
authors of Canada. The men present may be 
counted on one liand. The engineers who travel- 
led with mo \a^t timo havo gone on further to new 
outpost.s. 
"What are they doing?" you ask. I'll tell you. 

"They are busy building railways on 

The map's deserted spot. 
Or staking out an empire in 

The land that God forgot." 

Doers of deeds are these men and the world 
has salted them with curious and stern experi- 

57 



58 SEEDS OF PINE 

ences. To my way of thinking, Dinny Hogan, boss 
contractor, with his blue eyes that are the blue of 
steel, is a bigger man than the First Lord of the 
Admiralty and his work is of more permanent 
value to the Empire. It was only the other day 
that Dinny made an arch of ** coyotes" — that is 
to say, of round holes — in one of the mountains, 
and into them he packed fifty carloads of gun- 
powder. The reader may find it difficult to follow 
this idea, but no doubt he could if he saw where 
Dinny removed the mountain in one shot. This 
would seem to be a kind of big game shooting 
w^hich has all others vanquished into nothingness. 

This is a wonderful trail through the mountains 
— the pass called the Yellowhead — a level ribbon 
of land along which the steels are laid for most of 
the way. But in some places, a road has been 
blasted out just to show how the mountains can 
be beaten. These lords of earth and sky, when 
called upon, must bow their unwilling necks to the 
yoke of steel. And no proper-spirited person can 
stand in this pass without feeling the challenge of 
the hills and without an immutable desire to con- 
quer them. This I take it is the spirit of the 
buccaneer. 

The highest mountain in these Rockies is Kob- 
son, called Yu-hai-has-kun by the Indians, mean- 
ing thereby a high, winding road. The Alpine 
Club of Canada intend, one of these times, to erect 
a chalet at Mount Robson so that they may at- 
tempt to scale it often. Three men succeeded in 
making tho nsponf this very summer. They were 



THE EXD OF STEEL 59 

roped together for thirty hours, and when they 
had come down again, their faces were seen to be 
cut and greatly marred. These men spoke fine 
and glorious things concerning the hilltop, and of 
how they looked down upon five hundred other 
peaks, but, in strait and narrow minds like ours, 
these climbs may be accounted only as strange 
follies. I have talked to Clausen Otto about these 
things, for he has been a guide hereabout these 
ten years or more, and is a notable man of affairs. 
He said I was only a terribly lame dog in front of 
a terribly high stile, and then, fearing that his 
conunent was truthful rather than polite, Otto 
proceeded to salve my feelings by explaining how 
the desire to climb glaciers was an ill-regulated 
one, and that what the Bible said about sucking 
honey out of a rock was *' plumb foolishness.'* 

Once, he was climbing with a hunter of goats 
when a bear came swiftly over the glacier-clad 
peak of the mountain. They were greatly puzzled 
to know why the bear had climbed so high, and 
why it dashed across the sununit. Surely there 
was something remarkable on the other side of 
the peak. After climbing several hours they made 
the ascent and looked over. "What do you think 
we saw?" asked Otto. 

•'Give it up," said I. 

*'I wish we had too," said Otto; "there was 
nothing on the far side but another glacier." 

Perhaps, the literary critics will help me decide 
if Otto meant this for the parable of the climber 



m SEEDS OP PINE 

or whether he was only singularly adept in the art 
of suggestion. 

You do not see Mount Robson till you have 
passed by. Our train stops to let us look aright, 
but cloud curtains obscure the turrets of this great 
temple of stone. Like a sorrowful Caryatid it 
stands erect under the burden of the sky. But, 
after awhile, the veil is rent asunder and a ting- 
ling flood of light spills itself on the snow in bliu's 
of garnet and blue and gold which scintillate and 
blend like the colours of a shell. Of a surety, the 
North has the alchemy that transmutes base 
metals into gold. 

What else may one see at Robson in this dream 
of summer Canada? Come near till I whisper! 
You may see white horses — and roan — and char- 
iots of fire, but not every one can. This is one of 
the mountain's secrets. 

And if you listen you may hear what the hills 
talk about, but you must listen. One mountain 
who is not so solemn as you might imagine wishes 
to deny that he is of the earth, earthy. 

''Bosh!" he said, and "Stuff! Any one who 
hasn't moss on his eyes can see I am of the rocks, 
rocky ! ' ' 

"Mark me and be astonished!" boasts a stu- 
pendous fellow near by whose face is furrowed 
by snow-slides. "I am a western mountain. Beat 
me if you can!" 

"I used to be a fish plantation," remarks a 
chalky-looking individual. "It was in the cre- 
taceous period and I lay underneath the sea." 



THE E\D OP STEEL 61 

"Lobster plantation .'" (jueries the western one. 

**No, you fro ward ignoramus," replies the 
fossiliferous fellow, '*! consist of Inoceramus 
problematicus, Fasciolaria buccinoides, and other 
aristrocratic niolhisks of the which you have never 
even heard.'' 

. . . Overhead, an aweless eagle, rising wing 
above wing says to his sweetheart, "It is my 
opinion God made these mountains for no other 
reason than that you and I might build our nest 
in them " 

There is, in this region, a body of water called 
Maligne Lake, and Jules DuBois, a trapper, whose 
son is married to 'Toinette, the niece of the second 
cousin of Pierre, whose mother-in-law was the 
third wife of Black Moccasin, the chieftain, once 
told me that this lake is dreaded by the Indians 
because there are no fish in it. This is why it is 
called "maligne." It frets Jules at the heart to go 
near it, for he has heard how the fish have been 
frightened away by a dead man who lives there. 
This man can see without eyes and his face is like 
a fungus with white teeth. When he laughs there 
is a noise in his throat like tho crackle of tama- 
rack tMngs, freshly lighted. 

Because of the glaciers on these hills and the 
warmth of the sununer in the valleys, this atmo- 
sphere seems like that of an eternal spring. Just 
to breathe it is a delight. Here the air strokes 
you into quietness till you forget the tearing 
hurry of life; the fretting uneasiness that rasps, 
and the hurt that comes of the fight. This is a 



62 SEEDS OF PINE 

sating of one's desire for the spiritual. And 
should you wish for a token you may stay awhile 
and drink of the water that cascades over the 
rocks. This is living water. This is the good 
wine of the hills. You may drink it in re- 
membrance. 

I am very sorry I must die some day and miss 
these wilding joys and the odour of the trees and 
flowers, but it is my comfortable hope that when I 
return to Claeg, the Eound One, who is called the 
earth, I shall be evolved into a pine-tree and grow 
happily in this mountain pass. Then will other 
people come to, even as I come to these trees, 
and say, ''Good morning-, my friend! I have been 
lonely for you." 

The pines are our fellow-creatures and more 
closely related to us than anything that has roots 
in the earth. They speak to our inmost being. 
A group of pines will restore sanity to the dis- 
distracted and sorrowful mind, for they are 
cordial trees, and in quietness and confidence is 
their strength. The pines are never tremulous or 
trivial, neither do they fade or die. Other trees 
are green for awhile, but these all the while. 

. . . Pippa, tlie little maid who sang for the 
world's hurt, came out of the w^oods, as likewise 
the Nazarene who died for it. 

Upland growths are the pines as befitteth the 
gods of the arboreal world. They are northern 
trees, "the chief things of the ancient mountains, 
the precious things of the lasting hills." Their 
history is writ far back in the black strata of the 



THE END OP STEEL 63 

carboniferous age, and that they will be the last 
trees to disappear off the earth, who can gain- 
say? As for me I shall not be persuaded other- 
wise though a man rise from the dead to tell me. 

And now we have come to Jasper, where we 
have two hours to rest off and talk to the men of 
a construction camp who have struck work for the 
day in order to see the train come in. Of course, 
it does not take all their day for this, but there 
were the preliminary toilet preparations to make 
and the walk in and out. Such new^ly shaven 
chins; such freshly brushed clothes; such 
irreproachable boots! Who could have expected 
it? 

Like the ascetics who of old-time went into the 
wilderness and found themselves dreaming of 
scarlet lips and white arms, so these fine fellows 
are ever fancying a comely woman gliding across 
their trail; a distressed damsel who needs to be 
fed and carried for long, long distances and 
sheltered in a low-built house of logs that is 
well-warmed and well-provisioned, with no other 
bachelor nearer than a hundred miles, 

The bachelors will doubtless deny this sweet 
dalliance with a vehement fervour, but it has 
the matter of fact \'irtue of being true, and is no 
whimsey of mine. A year ago it was, in a prize 
competition, I was called upon to read over a 
hundred short stories, or more properly speak- 
ing, human nature studies. An amazingly large 
proportion of these came from northern camps, 
and in nearly every case the afore-mentioned 



64 SEEDS OF PINE 

situation was the theme. The variation from this 
concerned a young Englishman of education who 
is notified that he has inherited wealtli at liome 
but prefers to stay with his woodland wife — a 
beautiful Indian girl — rather than return to the 
granitic conventions of the old world, and to the 
busy idleness that goes by the name of society. 

And why deny that their hearts are a-brim with 
dreams, for these are beautiful reveries and 
worthy the most chivalrous of knights. Since it 
Avas given me to look into the recesses of their 
minds I have liked them better than ever and am 
many times heartily glad. Any woman who is a 
gentleman would. 

And here Opportunity has spilled a whole 
trainload of women before them — old and young, 
wise and otherwise. It would be tempting the 
patience of Providence if they didn't meet the 
train, these bachelors who would gladly lose a^rib. 

Such a waste of excellent material," says a 
poetess who looks over the bachelors with an 
appraising eye. "How big they are! Some way 
or other, they make me think of steel girders. ' ' 

''Ragingly handsome, I call them," says a 
petite miss w]io edits a page on a big eastern daily. 
"Do you think it possible. Lady Jane, that they 
— could — have — holes — in — their — socks ? ' ' 

"Not only possible. My Dear, but highly prob- 
able," I reply. 

"ATTiat odds?" asks Cy Warmau, the poet. 
"It is recorded that President Taft was noticed 



THE END OF STEEL 65 

to have a hole in his sock when he took off his 
boots in a Tokyo tea-room." 

*'I am persuaded," remarks an historian who 
has been listening, **that it is the duty of the 
Prime Minister of Canada to import wives for the 
bachelors who live on the frontiers. He has most 
excellent precedent in the case of Talon, the 
Intendant, who in 1670, because of the disparity 
of the sexes in this country, imported one hundred 
and sixty-five young women. Moreover, Talon 
specified that in sending out these girls from 
France, the King should see that they had good 
looks and were strong and healthy." 

''My fellow- women ! " interrupts a society re- 
porter, who is an incarnation of frankness, **lend 
me your ears; I won't need your money. I intend 
coming here to live. No longer will I remain a 
martyr to good form. I am weary to death of 
musicales and other entertainments of an objec- 
tionable character. I intend to quit the *best 
circles,' the 'local coteries,' and the ^hant noblesse 
in favour of a man with a bungalow at Jasper, and 
for these delectable mountains with the glories 
thereof. Now, what do you say to that?" 

"Taken," replies a distinctly masculine voice 
in the rear — a voice that might come from a steel 
girder — whereupon the rest of us discreetly retire 
to allow for the arrangement of preliminaries. 
Love is born through effrontery more often than 
we think. 

When we have achieved the sights of Jasper 
we entrain for Tete Jaune Cache, a beautiful 



Gf) SEEDS OF PINE 

moping place on the Fraser River. All the way 
along we pass through the fastnesses of the hills, 
places of glamour and mystery, and perhaps of 
fear. Here our eyes are pleasured with an illusive 
perspective or an uncertain silhouette ; a fantastic 
rock-form cut out by the cruel chisels of the ice; 
a precipitous gorge up which the adventurous 
trees have stormed in darkened files; a welt of 
green w^here the moss has healed the hurt of the 
avalanche; a snow-born river with its white- 
toothed angry waters, a splash of ice called a 
glacier — a steady, long-living sjjlash obedient 
only to the sun. 

The artists with us talk of values, vistas, truth 
of space, chiaroscuro, mellowness of effect, and 
transparence of air. Perhaps they are right, but 
it seems to me that when Nature stretched her 
stone canvas in the Rockies she did not trouble 
Avith the trivialities of pleasing prettincss or 
technical nicety. She brushed in her colours with 
a boldness of mass and outline, with an energ>'^ 
and expression that stagger. There is no ambigu- 
ity about them. She used primary colours and 
never hesitated. Royal purple, the orange light of 
fire, and the sickening red in which Tintoretto has 
painted the wounds of his martyrs, she here 
emphasized by the ''cold virgin snow" on the 
peaks. 

For uncounted centuries, silence has brooded 
over the beauty of these imperturbable hills and 
over their unpathed, desolate places which only 
tlie eyes of the gods have seen. It is well with me 



THE END OF STEEL 67 

this day that I journey through theiil, for here, as 
in Eden, the terrestrial and celestial may be one 
It is well, too, that in passing I may shut my eyes 
and mentally sing the song of the land as it came 
hot from the heart of a poet in his home at the 
foot of these hills — 

"Oh, couid ye see, and could ye see 
The great gold skies so clear, 
Th'* rivers that rate the pine shade dark. 
The nwuntainous snows that take no mark. 
Sunlit and high on the Rockies stark 
So lar they seem as near. 

But could ye know, and forever know 

The word ot the young Northwest; 
A word she breathes to the true and bold, 
A word inisknown to the false and cold, 
A word that never was broken or sold. 

But the one who knows is best." 

At Tete Jaune Cache, they are preparing to 
''strike camp" and move on to Mile 149. This 
lias been the supply station for all the outposts, 
which means more than you may think, for the 
Railway Company furnishes an amazingly gener- 
ous and varied bill-of-fare to its employees. 

Don't ask me what you can get here, for I won't 
tell lest the urban epicures whose jaded palates 
need tickling should start out in a body for this 
lodge at Tete Jaune. 

And the leading man in the kitchen has the most 
substantial merit and can roast a sirloin of beef 
or bake a cake of prodigious bigness for the men's 
supper just as he can cunningly and designedly 
contrive a pimento bisque, an omelette espanol, 
or shrimps a la creoIe for the boss and his com- 



68 SEEDS OF PINE 

pany. I'll not tell another word about the fare, 
but, believe me it is "with such cookery a monkey 
might eat his own father." 

Te' Jaune, as it is familiarly called in the North, 
is situated on the Fraser River. Because of the 
snow melting on the mountains, the Fraser is 
swollen as if the waters surged from underneath. 
Wliile we wait, swart, husk^'^-looking men are 
putting off to Fort George in primitive craft built 
of squared logs. These boats are called scows. 
They are carried along by the current which is 
from six to eight miles an hour, and are guided by 
means of a paddle with a vast yellow blade. 

As the men pass on and wave their hands to us, 
a fret falls on me to go with them along this river- 
road to its very end, and if you are of my kin you 
would want it too. We would live sturdily; we 
would be sopped in sunshine, and God would give 
us joy. 

At Te' Jaune there are many tongues spoken, 
for the workmen hail from all over the imiverse. 
Of late, we have heard much about these foreign- 
ers and of ''those nations which we, so full-mouth 
ed, call barbarous." Certain Canadians are en- 
wrathed and utterly discomfited because of them. 
It is their desire to tidy up the country by sending 
the "alien offscourings" to where they belong. 
They tell us that our manners "will become cor- 
rupted and our institutions imperilled by them. 

This fear of strangers is not peculiar to our 
country and age. Strangers have, in all lands, 
been looked upon as enemies to the common- 



THE EiVD OF STEEL 69 

wealth, and consequently to be avoided or ex- 
tinguished. According to Flavins Josephus, when 
Moses came to die he said, *'0h you Israelites and 
fellow-soldiers. ... I would advise you to pre- 
serve these laws to leave none of your enemies 
alive when you have conquered them, but to look 
upon it as for your advantage to destroy them all, 
lest if you permit them to live, you taste of their 
manners and thereby corrupt your own proper 
institutions. I do farther exhort you to over- 
throw their altars and their groves and whatso- 
ever temples they have among them, and bum all 
such, their nation and their very memory with 
fire; for by this means alone the safety of your 
own happy constitution can be secured to you.*' 

The Jewish constitution was not worth the price 
asked; neither is ours. This should be far from 
the spirit of Canada — ''the manless land that is 
crying out for the landless man." Canada is the 
child of the nations and our husky provinces have 
need of these husky peoples. Not only must we 
open wide our doors and bid them a good welcome, 
but having entered, it must be our endeavour to 
weld them into a seemly and coherent whole. 

This is a task which is half accomplished e'er it 
is begun, for the Russian, the Italian, the Scandi- 
navian and all our immigrants are eager to be like 
the Canadians, to speak our language, to wear our 
clothes, and to think, talk and walk like us. Their 
differentiation is a burden to them and they 
desire to drop it as quickly as possible. 

These Coming Canadians from Europe are of a 
fine advantage to this country where thousands of 



70 SEEDS OF PINE 

miles of roads and railw^ays are to be built, in that 
they perform the more onerous tasks of digging 
and drainage which the Canadian, British, and 
American turns from as menial and unworthy. 
It would be a wide mistake for us to turn back 
from our sea-ports these unlearned and common 
peoples who seek entrance — as foolish as the far- 
mer who would fear a large yield of wheat lest he 
could not thresh it, or a banker who dreaded an 
inrush of gold lest he could not count it. 

It was Michael Gowda, a Ruthenian living at 
Edmonton, who expressed for his people their 
feelings of loyalty towards the land of their adop- 
tion in a poem entitled "0 Free and Fresh-home 
Canada" — 

" And are you not, C) Canada, our own? 
Nay, we are still but holders of thy soil, — 
We have not earned by sacrifice and j^roun 
The right to l>oast the country where we toil. 

But, Canada, our hearts are thine till death, 
Our children shall be free to call thee theirs, 
Tlieir own dear land where, gladly drawing breath. 
Their parents found safe homes, and left strong heirs. 

Of homes, and native freedom, and the heart 
To live and strive and die, if need be. 
In standing manfully by honour's part 
To guard the country that has made us free." 



CHAPTER VI 



BITTER WATERS 



They could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were 
bitter.— rA0 Pentateuk. 

TWEET, my little plover! Thy lips are like 
unto the hleeding strawberry.** 
Wasi, the father, smiled indulgently on 
this child-play, cooing chatter, and sweet-flavoured 
words of his girl-wife as she fondled their won- 
der-eyed baby. 

And in truth, it was a round dimpled baby — a 
cunning, cuddling papoose that looked for all the 
world like a live bronze. Wasi did well to smile. 

The older Braves had sneered at Wasi, "the 
Yellow Pine,'* for had he not, they asked, 
breathed the breath of his squaw till his heart 
was even as faint and soft as a squaw's heart. 
But Wasi of the swart face heeded not their gibes 
for he loved Enni with the flaming love known 
only to men of hot heart and greedy senses. 

"Lazy one, to sleep till sun is high," merrily 
ciiided Ermi.'* Little Ninon has been awake since 
the dawn raised the meadow-larks." 

Wasi rose hastily, ,for he would take the trail 

71 



72 SEEDS OF PINE 

early to the sun-dance, and it was four suns' 
journey to the North. 

Once, Ermi had gone when she was ten spring- 
tides old, but the cruelties of the scene with it 
shrill jubilations, had bitten themselves into her 
memory. Her brother had been one of the candi- 
dates for the coveted title of ''Brave," and she 
had seen the wooden skewers thrust through the 
muscles of his chest by which he was suspended 
to a tree and from which he only freed himself by 
tearing away the flesh. Since then, she had been 
to the mission school at St. Albert, and the nuns 
had taught her that the body was holy, *'a tem- 
ple," they called it, and that the sun-dance was 
sinful exceedingly. 

Father Lamont at the cathedral had christened 
her Agatha, for she had come to them in February 
on the day of the virgin-martyr of Sicily. But 
Wasi was a Pagan, and called her Ermi. 

Ermi busied herself laying out Wasi's beaded 
moccasins, his bow of cherry-wood with its 
leathern thong, and his arrow^s of Albertan wil- 
lows, that were winged w^th eagle feathers and 
tipped with iron. 

All the wliile she sang a quaint song about love. 

"Why singest thou thus?" asked Wasi. '''Tis 
the foolish song of the hunters from the south- 
land." 

But Ermi laughed as she sang— r 

" 'Twas odour fled 
As soon as shed, 
'Twas morning's winged dream; 
'Twas a ligiit that ne'er can shine again 
On life's dull stream." 



BITTER WATERS 73 

Then, as Wasi held his pony, Eriiii kissed her 
brave and rested her slight little body against him 
with love speaking in every line of its limp aban- 
don. 

n 

Outside, the smouldering sun sank earthward in 
a drapery of blood-red. In the tepee, the fierce 
dryness of the hot winds breathed on the baby 
that lay dying by the open door. 

The Indian women feared the measles more 
than any other plague, and so Ermi had been alone 
all the days, save only for the medicine-man Who 
had come to her thrice. He would drive out the 
evil spirits who had caused the sickness, but Ermi 
only shook her head and held little Ninon the 
closer. Once, she had seen him sear the flesh of 
Cheneka with a burning piece of touchwood, and 
he had sucked the blood from the breast of Kon. 
Besides, Ermi was a Christian and worshipped 
always at the shrine of the great white virgin. 

The hours passed, horrible hours, and still in 
her loneliness and parching anxiety she cried for 
the life of her baby, cried the prayers of impot- 
ence to omnipotence. Already the baby-face was 
old and tired, but the mother crooned and rocked 
her all through the night till, at dawTi, the wearied 
eyelids drooped over the darkened eyes for the 
last time. The dove had found no rest for the 
sole of her foot. 

Ermi knew where there lay a great stone in the 
coulee off by the river bank. She would carry her 



74 SEEDS OF PINE 

baby thence and bury it under the stone, safe from 
the grovelling of wolves. 

Then she washed the tiny form and combed the 
tangles from the soft hair, looping it back from 
the face with a band of scarlet. "Ater all," she 
mused, *'life has no beauty so wonderful as 
death." 

And because it was the tribal belief that if a 
corpse were carried through a door, the next 
person following would shortly die, Ermi put 
Ninon through the window, for Wasi would come 
home soon and the dread fate might fall on him. 

Gathering the little clod of flesh in her arms and 
'pressing it closely, the dry-eyed mother set out on 
her journey across the wide-lying plans. On and 
on she walked, trudge, trudge, trudge, under a 
brazen sky that looked down pitiless and tearless. 

*'0h! If Wasi were here," she thought. "He 
would carry the spade and I would hold little 
Ninon only. If Wasi were here!" 

The ground reflected heat to her weary soul and 
body, and the weight of the world seemed to crush 
her frail being. 

**0h. Mother of God! Sweet Mother of God!" 
she moaned. ''How the sun burns, and I am very 
tired." 

But the women of the Braves are in pain and 
weariness often, so Ermi staggered on till she 
reached the coulee, with its boulder that had been 
carried hither by the river when it overflowed its 
banks at the last springtide. 

Laying her burden in the shadow of the rock. 



BITTER WATERS 75 

Ernii hollowed out an earthen cradle for the baby. 
She lined it with green, too, just as they had done 
at school when any one died, and then passion- 
ately kissing Ninon, she wrapped a bit of blanket 
about her, for the living would have the dead 
sleep soft and warm. 

Ernii tried to think a prayer, but she had for- 
gotten them all since the nights when Ninon was 
sick. She could not think of even one. She only 
noticed that the white butterflies swam lazily to 
and fro like floating blossoms, and that the sun- 
flowers were wondrously beautiful as they punctu- 
ated the rank, shaggy grass with gold. Lissome 
lilies swayed gently in the hot breeze and made 
blotches on the earth like spilled wine. 

At midday, the lilt of a lark stabbed the air, and 
the sound roused Ermi, for she rose sharply to her 
feet and sang with hoarse voice and stiff lips — 

" Twas odour fled 
As soon as shed; 
Twas morning's wingM dream; 
Twas a light that ne er can shine again 
On life's dull stream." 

The startled gophers darted into their cover and 
waited. When they looked again, the mother had 
packed the little form in clay, had rolled to the 
stone and lay face down wards on the earth. It 
was early dawn when she rose from her vigil. 

in 

As Ermi neared the house, she saw that Wasi 
had returned, and with bursting heart she ran to 



76 SEEDS OF PINE 

tell hira of their sorrow. His face grew sad and 
stem as he listened, but again, it lit up as he took 
her by the hand and led her to see Asa, the woman 
he had brought as a wife to his hut. Asa, who 
would be to her as a sister, one whom sho would 
love in the place of Ninon, the child. 

There are half-hours that dilate to years, and 
Ermi seemed to have suddenly grown cold. It was 
as though the vampire vixeoi who haimts the 
muskeg swamp had suddenly sapped her youth. 
Ermi spoke nought, only she laughed like Kayosk, 
the sea-gull, as he flies across Lac AVabamun, a 
loud laugh and bitter, like the taste of sleugh salt 
in sunmier. 

She knew the unwritten laws of their tribe 
permitted polygamy, but she knew not that, even 
in his best love, a man's heart is never entirely 
absorbed, that no Wasi ever belongs wholly to any 
Ermi, knew not that this is the tree of woman's 
crucifixion. 

And Wasi endeavoured to comfort her, but she 
vv'as only silent and motionless. He told her of the 
great sun-dance, and of the feastings, and of how 
the sisters of the youths had cut little pieces of 
flesh from them, but the youths cried not, for they 
were no weak women. 

Then Ermi moved around gently and prepared 
food for Asa, who wore a wreath of yellow blos- 
soms wherewith Wasi had crowned her. 

Sometimes, as she moved to and fro, she stop- 
ped as in a dream to look at the glowing and 
beautiful bodv of her rival. The woman was lithe 



BITTER WATERS 77 

as a sapling, her clieeks were like wild red roses, 
and lier mouth was like to a bow and arrow when 
it is set. Asa's hair was blue-black, but her skin 
was almost white, for her father had been a pale 
face, one of the Company's men at Fort Edmon- 
ton. 

But Ermi neither spoke nor complained, even 
when she read in Wasi's eyes strange depths of 
passion as he looked on the lovely stranger, A few 
days agone, she would have torn this woman to 
pieces, but there was no rage in her heart now. 
The world had hardened around her, and she 
could not cut through. 

And so four moons filled and waned, and dark- 
ness and sun passed unheeded to the stricken 
Ermi, for the light had gone out of her life, and 
from the heavens too. 

The women who loved her, and even Asa, tried 
to break her apathy, but guessed not that her 
wound was past all surgery — that her life was a 
bitter marah into wliich no ti-ce of lip;ilin<>- ^nnld 
fall. 

Some said the sun had kissed her wlien she 
carried little Ninon to the coulee, and others said 
it was the touch of God, for the world has always 
a name for a broken heart. 

Once the wife of Tusda told her that Ninon was 
better off and not needing her in the least, but this 
only made Ermi's heart the more dull and leaden. 

Wazakoo thought that Ninon miglit have gro\\'n 
into such a wicked woman as the bold Asa, but the 
words were an insult to the innocent eyes, the 



78 SEEDS OP PINE 

little unsullied feet, the lips pure as thought of 
God, wliich the mother's eyes called up. 

"Very soon, you will go also," added Taopi, but 
it bewildered Ertni the more to know that the 
little piece of ground on which she stood was 
crumbling too. 

Another moon waned and yet she served the 
household. In her brain the fire still burned on. 
Without, on the plains, the wind made a black 
discord like the sobbing cry of a starved wolf, and, 
sometimes, it was most like the whine of a whip- 
thong. Manitou walked about the earth and the 
leaves faded and fell from the trees. Manitou. 
blew with his breath, and the river became like 
flint. At the wave of his arms the animals hid 
away in the ground and the birds forsook their 
nests in the wild rice and flew far off to the south- 
land. 

But all the days the baby called to Ermi, and 
often it wailed. One day the voice wooed her 
unto the snow, out into the sheeted storm that 
turned the air into a white darkness. Streaks of 
bitter wind screamed across the prairie. The 
snow cut her face with stinging lash and the 
cowering cold cut into her very bones. But still, 
without ceasing, the baby called to her. Now and 
theii, she almost clasped it, and her soiil swooned, 
but something intangible, impalpable ever waved 
her back. 

And then Ermi understood that the night was 
closing in and that she had come a long, long way. 
She would go back to Wasi, for she had forgotten 



BITTER WATERS 79 

about the other woiiiaji. The fire would be low, 
lie would need her and she must find him, however 
weary the trail. 

But even as she resolved, the woman sank limp- 
ly to where one finds dreams and soft reveries 
and where church bells toll the vesper hour. Her 
liands clasped her rosary, but she did not pray. 
She only maundered softly the foolish song of the 
hunters from the southland — 

" 'Twas odour fled 
As soon as shed; 
Twas morning's winged dream; 
'Twas a light " 

Once at school, she could not solve a problem 

and so she broke the slate. She remembered it 

quite well ; it was a question in the rule of three. 

•*Uow foolish!" she mused, and Ermi smiled as 

she remembered. 

• ••♦•*• 

The morning dawned brightly in the coulee 
where a stone covered a little grave. There was 
nothing to be seen, nor anything to suggest that 
it was here Ermi had lain down to dreams. The 
snow had hidden her well in its white bosom, but 
somewhere, somehow, Ermi, the Indian woman, 
was working out the pitiful problem of life on 
another slate. 



CHAPTER VII 

MOTORING TO ATHABASCA LANDING 

" I'll tell the tale of a northern trail, 
And 80 help me God, it's true." 

I DREAMED three times that I was taking 
this trip, and here it has come to pass. 
Our party consists of an editor from Van- 
couver; an editor from Edmonton; a Member of 
Parliament, a chauffeur, and niyself. I feel guilt- 
ily feminine. 

The road is one hundred miles Jong and con- 
nects Edmonton with the North. Over it are 
hauled all the supplies for the settlements and 
trading posts clear down to the Arctic. Once ar- 
rived at Athabasca Landing, the supplies are 
loaded on to scows or, in the winter, to sleighs, 
and from thence carried to their destination. I 
secretly call this the Trail of Sighs, for to the 
freighter it is a long and weary way, especially in 
these later days when editors, M.P.'s and grace- 
less witty bodies whirl past him at forty miles 
the hour in motors that are quite mad. Some day 
a teamster will kill a chauffeur for sheer spite. 
Even now the fuse is fizzing round the magazine, 
or whatever you call the gasoline receptacle under 
the seat. 

80 



MOTORING TO ATHABASCA LANDING 81 

It would be liard to declare how long thi? trail 
has been used, but I would say for a century at 
h»ast. From Edmonton for a few miles out, it 
is called the Fort Trail because — allowing for a 
slight divergence — it goes to Fort Saskatchewan, 
the head-quarters of the Mounted Police in this 
district. From thence, it is called the Landing 
Trail. 

But soon this whole country will be shod with 
steel, for, even now, you may see nav\4es building 
i^rades as you pass along the trail, and next week 
the first railway to the Landing will be opened for 
traffic. I tell you, these railways are creating a 
new heavens and a new earth however much the 
freighters may object. It is true, the trail will 
lose in interest once the lumbering stage coaches 
and heavily laden "tote" wagons have dis- 
appeared. When there are no long whips that 
crack like pistol shots; no night encampments 
around blazing fires, and no browsing cattle with 
tinkling bells, much of its picturesqueness wnll 
liave been surrendered to the implacable cause of 
civilization. 

From this time forth, the men who travel the 
trail will work for a wage. They will forget the 
feel of frozen bread in the teeth; the hard earth 
underneath them and the rough blanket against 
their chins. Yes! and they will also forget the 
fine elemental thrill that comes from hitting a 
running moose at long range, or a slithering wolf 
that lurks privily in a covert of kinikinnic. The 
pity of it! 



82 SEEDS OF PJNE 

No longer will our trail know the tired huskies, 
and still more tired runners, who each year, conio 
February, make this homestretch to the old i'ur- 
market. The enormous bundles of fur that each 
spring sell for a million dollars to the bidders 
from Vienna, St. Petersburg, London and Chic- 
ago, will, for the future, figure as only so many 
untanned hides, as per bill of lading, instead of 
precious peltry or — supposing you to have sight 
and insight — "the lives o' men." 

Our first stopping place is Battenberg, by the 
Sturgeon River. The place is not named for the 
lace as you might conjecture, but in honour of the 
son-in-law of her late Majesty, Queen Victoria. 
It is here the rural telephone wire comes to an end 
but if you are inclined to be finicky, it is not well 
to telephone. I tried it and had a conversation 
with Central in the which she expressed her 
opinion of me. I cannot complain that it was not 
informing. 

The motor in which we travel has a record, not 
for speed, but as having made the farthest north 
trip on its own power. Last winter. Jack Kydd, 
our chauffeur, took it down the Athabasca River, 
on the ice, as far as the Pelican Rapids — that is to 
say, 225 miles north of Edmonton. ''The make of 
the car?" you ask. I would tell you straight off 
and, later on, would endeavour to collect a bonus 
from the manufacturers were it not for the uncom- 
promising prejudice of the publishers and their 
editors. Men are like that. 

But I was telling you about Jack Kydd! His 
talent as a chauffeur is one that trails no feathers 



MOTORING TO ATHABASCA LANDING 83 

and he is a fine likely looking lad. This day, I 
-aw him pull the remains of a stump out of the 
road without breaking the axle. Such a perfoiin- 
ance should be rated as a religious act like the 
planting of the pipal tree in India. 

All the way along, our road is contested by 
farmers' dogs who surge out from the shacks in a 
vain endeavour to regulate our speed. The dog 
is fin incurable motophobe who says everything 
profane about motors that can be said. 

Here is a morose young bull contesting the high 
way with us, refusing to budge an inch, and facing 
the motor with a menace. He is a grim-visaged 
brute and built for battle like an ironclad. His 
challenge to combat is a very dagger stroke of 
sound. Although the M.P. wagers fifty dollars on 
the motor, we do not try conclusions, but discreet- 
ly take to the side of the road at an angle that 
is truly appalling. 

Even the calves are not afraid of the car and 
make their perilous bed in the middle of the road, 
thus causing us to reduce our pace to a legal one. 
Indeed, the only animals frightened of it are the 
horses. Its huge black snout and great goggle-eyes 
must make it seem to them like some monstrous, 
unthinkable brute. And, all considered, the horses 
are the wisest of the animals — wiser even than 
men — for the yellow peril — is as nothing to the 
l)lack one. 

Still, we are having a mighty good time. When 
I he road is clear, the car spreads her wings and 
Hies. Her gentle pliancy seems incompatible with 



84 SEEDS OF PINE 

her hurtling force. Each moment, she accumulates 
momentum so that we feel a sensation of tremen- 
dous power without pity. For the nonce, we are 
potential murderers and pigmy men had better 
have a care how they lounge across our paths. 
This mad car doesn't know a hill when she comes 
to it and even sings a long-metre song on the 
ascent. She might fairly be considered to have 
conquered gravitation. On! On! with bird-like 
swoop she goes, fairly skimming the ground and 
taking the corners just as if she knew what was 
there. 

You can never believe how stretched out the 
world is till you motor this way north and see the 
long ribbons of road that unfold at every turn, 
the silver illimitable distances that suggest both a 
mystery and an invitation. I love these open 
trails, and to be of the earth earthy is not so 
wicked after all. 

Gur — r — r — umph ! Our 50 H.P. had dwindled 
to less than one-pony power and we haven't a leg 
to stand on. I wdll never say we burst a tyre : we 
cast a shoe. 

"It is neither, Madam," said the Vancouver 
editor who was helping to prise up the wheel. 
"It is a valvular disease. Our viary accident is 
the result of a vicious valve that, of its own 
volition, has put a veto on our volacious voyage." 

"Avant!" retorts the editor from Edmonton. 
"I will vouch that the accident to the vitals of our 
vehicle was a voidable one and arose from violent 
vibrations and vul":ar velocitv." 



MOTORING TO ATHABASCA LANDING 85 

'*Your verbose verdicts will never make the 
vamp or fill the vacuum," says the more practical 
M.P. ''Bring me the vade-mecum this instant, 
vou vacillating vagabonds." 

I cannot think of any assonant words so I am 
ontent with fining each man a "V" or "vifty" 
Jays. I told you I was guiltily feminine. 

Sitting at the side of a road, waiting for a 
plaster to dry on a valve, is about as exciting an 
occupation as knitting. Men should see to it that 
women learn to smoke if only that the women may 
take breakdowns more placidly. I can understand 
-m oking becoming a means of grace. Besides, the 
>un is very hot this day and burns my face and 
neck to a vivid scarlet. Each man in the party 
pnxluces a talcum tin for my alleviation. "Sunny 
Alberta!" snorts the British Columbian, '"Snnny 
Alberta! a place of sun, believe me, for people 
who would prefer shade." 

This newly acquired habit of the modern man in 
carrj'ing a talcum tin is one that, hitherto, has 
escaped print. I here set it do\vTi for your con- 
sideration. 

While we are at work, three handsome boys 

drive up and stop to talk with us. I take their 

photograph while they pose for me on a stump. 

Tliey are real-estate fans, so that their heads are 

full of ** propositions," their pockets full of maps. 

T' ' y have imagination, unflagging industry, 

lity of expression, and love of country — ciuali- 

ies which are sure to bring them to the front in 

tlieir gainful pursuit. 



86 SEEDS OF PINE 

The illustrious financiers who come yearly to 
this province to deliver much kind advice and 
sage instruction, warn us to 'beware of these boys 
whom they are pleased to call ''wildcatters," just 
as if we were the first to spend our money on the 
evidence of things hoped for, the substance of 
things not seen. The trouble which follows from 
over-investment in real-estate futures is attribut- 
able, not so much to the wildcatters, as to the 
unknown author of the multiplication table. 
Multiplying is our favourite occupation in Al- 
berta even as it is in some other provinces I know 
of. Up here, every one who has a tongue talks 
about his "turn-over"; his "c 'mission"; his 
"stake." Those who haven't tongues are the 
listeners. And it is a good thing to have a stake 
in this North-West Canada — very good. I have 
never yet met a person who regretted having 
one, but there are many regret they have not. I 
could tell you more about the real-estate situation 
only Jane Austen says if a woman knows any- 
thing she should strive superlatively to conceal it. 

Fifty miles from Edmonton, we cross the Arctic 
watershed, so that from this point it is strictly 
proper to say down North, although the fall is 
only two feet to the mile. It is at this height of 
land that we look around and mentally spy out 
the country. We talk about the incomparable 
wheat fields of Grande Prairie ; the water-powers 
of the Peace River; the oil-fields at Fort McMur- 
ray ; the natural gas at Pelican Rapids ; the timber 
berths and asphaltum of the Athabasca; of the 



MOTORING TO ATHABASCA LANDING 87 

oal, salt, fisheries, furs, and minerals spread all 
'ver and under this new and unrivalled North- 
land. And all this riches lies at our very feet — 
ours for the taking. "Hungry and I feed them," 
says the North. *' Naked and I clothe them; 
thirsty and I give them " 

"No, it doesn't," says our chauffeur. "You 
iin't get anything to drink beyond the Landing. 
The North is strictly a prohibition country." 

"Dear me!" whines a person in the back seat, 
•'and we are dreadfully out of tea." 

At five o'clock, we stop at Eggie's for supper. 
Eggie broke land here fourteen years ago, and 
ever since has kept a stopping place for travellers. 
There is no need of his transporting eggs, butter, 
meat, grain, and vegetables to market, for the 
market comes to him. He makes hay when the 
sun shines, and also in the dark. As a result, he 
has accunmlated sixty thousand dollars in money 
and gear. So far as I know, there is no eating- 
house with a record in any way comparable. 

Eggie Jr. is a telegraph operator. His instru- 
ment is back of the cook stove over against a 
window. When he is away from home his young 
lister works the code. She picked it up while 
tending the stove. You can never tell what is up 
the sleeve of the^e pioneering women. I told her 
she was the sixth wise virgin. "The other five!" 
-he queried witii a glint of laughter in her eyes. 
['here are other folk having supper at Eggie's. 
The man with the long slouchy stride is a land 
surveyor. They grow on every bush here. 



88 sp:eds of pine 

That crisp-mannered youth with the honey- 
coloured hair is going down north to cap a gas 
well. In what better task can a youth engage than 
to conserve power, heat, and light for humanity? 
Dear young man ! 

Their driver quotes Cicero, and swears in Cree. 
He is a living example of what whisky can do for 
a Bachelor of Arts who entirely devotes himself 
to it. 

By six o'clock we are again on the road, and 
passing through a rolling park-like country dotted 
with clumps of cottonwood, birch, poplar, and 
spruce. Sometimes, we pass lush meadow upon 
which graze full-fleshed cattle and comfortably 
rotund sheep. On one farm, a man is burning 
dead brushwood. There is no keener pleasure 
than, here and there, to thrust a core of fire into 
long grass or brushwood, and to watch the red 
tongues of flame as they greedily lap it up. As 
yet, no farmer has written about it, but this is 
only because farmers are afraid of literary 
critics. It is a pity the workers are so frequently 
inarticulate, thus leaving their joys and sorrows 
to be imperfectly sensed by onlookers. But, Hear, 
Oh Men! and rejoice with me for at this game I 
am not a mere onlooker, having once burnt over 
twenty-eight acres. In making these fires, there 
is a kind of madness that takes possession of 
you so that you pay no heed to the shrivelling of 
your shoes ; to the scalding cinders on your hands ; 
or the inky blackness of your face and clothes. 
Indeed, it would not be surprising to ultimately 



MOTORING TO ATHABASCA LANDING 89 

learn that the direful task assigned to Lucifer is 
not wholly A\athout its compensations. 

At long intervals, we pass fat little shacks that 
spread over tlie land instead of stretching up. At 
one of these, we stop to get cold water in the 
engine. 

"Any news moving?" asks the bachelor w^ho 
is overlord to the shack. 

He does not wait for an answer, but proceeds 
to inform us that the prime knowledge a man 
needs for homesteading is the art of cooking in a 
frying pan. 

His homestead is a ranch; not a rawnch. The 
difference, he explains, is that the former pays 
sometimes; the latter never. 

He very kindly invites me to see his swineyard, 
tlie special pride of which is a heavy thoroughbred 
called ''Artful Belle" la! la Ha! 

As he upholsters his pipe with a stuffing of cut- 
plug, her master would have me observe that 
Belle's face is "dished" and that her eyes are 
free from wrinkles of surrounding fat. Indeed 
Belle is no waddling, commonplace sow; no mere 
animated lard keg, for she has been bred to the 
puiple with great care. 

"A bacon hog?" I ask. 

**Yes, madam," he replies, "but in order that 
her bacon may be of the desired streakiness I feed 
and starve her alternately." 

It makes a vast difference to a sow whether her 
ears stand up or lie down. Belle's ears are *pli 
able' and 'silky.' Her hair doesn't comb straight 



yo SEEDS OF PINE 

either, but tends to swirls and cowlicks which 
are proof-positive of her blue blood in the same 
way that a cold nose is in a woman. 

I made a grave error, too, in speaking of Belle 
as red. Every swine husbandman knows the 
lechnical word for her particular colour is ''ma- 
hogany." She has already farrowed two litters 
of six, the members of which inherit their 
mother's fatal beauty. He tells me other things 
but I forget them, except that pigs can see the 
wind, and that they are older than history. 

We take a photograph of this bachelor home- 
steader and promise to print it in a city paper 
under the caption, 'Wife Wanted.' In the North, 
we call a bachelor, 'an anxious one.' 

The last miles of our journey are heavy going 
because of the hills and stones, and our motor 
makes a lugubrious noise internally that is wholly 
at variance with her velvet wheels, well lubricated 
machinery, and the comfortable roundness of the 
corner seats, as if a plump and smiling matron had 
suddenly started to swear. 

AVe reach Athabasca Landing at half-past ten 
while daylight still lingers. Our complexions are 
somewhat impaired, but the man who settles the 
bill for the steaks and coffee says there is nothing 
wrong with our appetites. 



CHAPTER VIII 

COUNTRY DELIGHTS 

Sometimes, I go a-fishing and shooting, and even then I carry 
a note-book, that if I lose game, I may at least bring home my 
pleasant thoughts. — Pliny. 

I AM fishing for graylings, but so far have 
caught none, my case being similar to that 
of one Chang Chi-Ho, who in the eighth 
century, "spent his time angling but used no bait, 
his object not being to catch fish." 

And truth to tell, I have not even the grace of 
an object, unless it bo to talk to the men folk who 
are lading the big flat scows called ''Sturgeon- 
Heads," for the trip down the river. 

By these right pleasant waters of the Atha- 
basca, you are no longer guided by dutj' but throw 
a rein on the senses. You do things because you 
want to do them, and not because you ought to. 
This is owing to the fact that the time-table loses 
its thrall north of 55°. I intend stopping here a 
long while. 

It is a sun-steeped day, and the river looks like 
a bed of sequins. The sun, although it is strong 
in Alberta, doesn't seem to ripen people like it 
does farther south. I can see this from the way 
people give me greeting and from how they tell me 
all that is in their hearts. 

91 



92 SEEDS OF PINE 

Antoine hears that far off in that place celled 
Montreal they dig worms out of the clay for bait, 
and that these worms have neither shells nor fur. 
This must be "wan beeg lie," for how could the 
worms keep from freezing? It is not according 
to reason. These white men with trails in the 
middle of their hair say tliese things so that tlie 
Crees, who are very shrewd rivermen, will go to 
live in Montreal. 

I heartily concur witli Antoine. I have been to 
Montreal myself and liave never seen so much as 
the sign of an earth-worm. They tell queer yarns, 
those Eastern fellows who come from dowm North 
to Avrite books and buy land, but Antoine and I 
won 't be fooled by them. Indeed, we won't. 

Antoine caught a pike the other day without a 
line, but he lost it again. It was the biggest fish 
he ever caught, but this is only natural, and is 
no new thing, for ever since the first slippery 
fisli slithered through the hands of primeval man, 
it has always been the biggest one that got away. 
Where these biggest fish foregather ultimately has 
always been a mystery to me. Some day, we shall 
discover a piscatorial paradise with millions of 
them in it. 

Antoine presents me to Captain Shot, an Indian 
who has been on this river for forty-eight years. 
The Captain is seventy-three, and his name is 
really Fausennent. He is called "Shot" because 
he was the first man to shoot the rapids of the 
Athabasca. I say that Antoine "presents me" 
but I say it advisedly, for the North levels people, 



COUNTRY DELIGHTS 93 

by which is meant the primitive north where they 
live with nature. In this environment, the man 
who builds boats and supplies food or fuel, is the 
superior of the man or woman who writes, or 
pronounces theories. I may be able to hoodwink 
tlie people up south as to my importance in our 
conmiunity, but it is different here. And this is 
as it should be. 

Captain Shot is engaged in building a boat for 
tlie Honourable the Hudson's Bay Company, and 
there is even a smoking-room in it. But, Blessed 
Mother ! it is no trouble to build a boat now — none 
at all, for presently the railway will be completed 
and the boilers and metal fixings will come in over 
it, but in the old days — that is to say up till now — 
it was different. When the Northern Navigation 
Co. brought in the boilers for their boats, they 
hauled them a hundred miles over the trail from 
Edmonton, and it took seventy-two horses on 
each boiler. 

"Didn't the government help any!" I ask. 

Oh yes ! the late government at Ottawa tried to 
help transportation by sending in fifty reindeer; 
but the Captain has heard tell that some men 
swore terrible oaths at the government, and set 
their dogs about eating up the deer, for these men 
hold a kind of* an idea it is railways the country 
hereabouts needs, but he is not quite sure as to 
the rights of the story. 

There are four hundred men employed here at 
the Landing in building scows and transhipping. 
Only a few of the scows are brought back, for they 



94 SEEDS OF PINE 

have to be tracked up by power of man. For this 
reason, a new flotilla is built each year. 

Captain Shot has many estimable sons, all of 
whom are rivermen and shipbuilders. They could 
hardly be expected to disgrace their name by be- 
coming mere farmers or teamsters after the un- 
wisdom of the white man's way. Ho! Ho! the 
idea of any one wishing to become a farmer. 

But I was telling you about the scows. Unless 
you sat here catching fish, you could never believe 
how much stuff can be packed into a scow. As I 
watch the men at work, I tliink of Mark Twain's 
ambitious blue-jay who tried to fill a house with 
acorns. Still the men do not seem lacking in con- 
fidence, and keep wading backward and forward 
through the water mth sacks of flour, slabs of 
bacon, chests of tea, crates of hardware, tins of 
stuff, and treasures in boxes that can only be 
guessed at. I am hoping the biggest box contains 
dolls, ribbons, work-bags, picture books, pepper- 
mint bull's eyes, and things like that, for a mission 
school Christmas-tree somewhere down near the 
Arctic. I am almost praying that it does. 

The smaller boxes are called permits, and each 
contain six bottles of whisky. These are for the 
pioneering gentlemen at the different posts who 
are delicate, and who honestly desire to get 
strong. 

Each permit is signed by a doctor so that the 
liquor nmst be considered strictly as medicine. 
Irritating people who fail to understand tliat 
there are only two licensed hotels between Ed- 



(^orXTRY DELIGHTS y.j 

inonton and the North Pole, sneer about there be- 
ing a thousand delicate men on the rivers; but, 
for my part, I am inclined to stand by the doctors, 
although I have always held the clinical ther- 
mometer to be the only thing about the medical 
profession with an integrity beyond question. 

If any one should glean from reading these 
linos that all there is to loading a scow is to load 
it, he or she is a much misled person. The last 
))ale is hardly stowed away till two of the men have 
disappeared. No on§ saw them go, least of all 
the Boss, but any one can see they are not here 
now. The Boss is a creature of steel who seems 
to forget there is nmch to be done in the last hour 
or two before a boatman leaves the Landing for 
the stretched out journey beyond. Various pur- 
chases are to be made; people are to be seen; 
drinks are to be had against a long, long thirst, to 
mention nothing of new vows to Marie, Babette, 
and Josephine. 

After awhile, the voyageurs are all rounded up 
with the exception of Luke. The best the Boss 
can say for Luke is that he has been given a Chris- 
tian name. Jake is sent to fetch him. Luke 
turns up, ])ut Scotty must find Jake. Luke isn't 
drunk either — not he. It's the scow that's drunk. 
Who said Luke was *' fuller 'n a goat," I'd like to 
know. Ultimately, tJie Boss starts off to get 
Seotty and Jake. He gets them, and he sits them 
^ down in a highly decisive manner, only to find thdt 
H Bill, and Jean Baptiste, and One-eyed Pete have 

r "■■■"■""■"■■ 



96 SEEDS OP PINE 

Grand Union Hotel. . . . The Boss looks eight 
feet tall when he is angry, but, otherwise, to the 
unseeing eye, he is only a young factor, or maybe 
an independent trader, intent on his M'ork like 
scores of other ordinary, unaccounted workmen. 
Contrawise, the eye of imagination may see in 
him an adventuring gentleman launching a craft 
that is to traverse for hundreds of miles through 
many and diverse waterways, carrying with it a 
veritable cargo of blessings to the far and lonely 
outposts of the North which, as yet, are little else 
than names. 

The rivermen push off from shore with their 
oars till, in the centre of the stream, the current 
catches them and carries them along. This is 
their only method of locomotion, to float and float 
with the stream. They have a steoring-pole in 
the scow similar to that which may be seen in 
pictures of old Roman galleys, and when, because 
of darkness, the voyageurs wish to stay their 
course, they make to shore by its aid, even as the 
Romans did more than two thousand years ago. 
To make the simile complete, I stand on tlie bank 
and repeat the invocation of the Roman poet : ''Oh 
ship that conveyest Virgil to Greece, duly deliver 
up the precious life entrusted to thy care." . . . 

If I hadn't jerked tlie crown of an old hat out of 
the river under tlie impression that it was a fish, 
Justine would not have laughed out loud and I 
would not have had an excuse to get acquainted 
with her. She has been sitting nearby this half- 
hour. Her name isn't really Justine and I forget 
what it is. She is the prettiest breed-girl in the 



LUi AiivV DELiuiiTS 07 

ouiitry and, by the same token, the frailest. 

Believe nie. Madam," explained an old officer of 

lie Mounted Police, the other day, ''those eyes 

were never given her for the good of her soul. 

She is a little worth-nothing person like all the 

otlier breed-girls." 

This man despises breed-women and he has 
made a sufficiently intimate study of them to form 
an (>pinion. He wishes they were all dead. "For 
m absolute truth, Madam, listen to me, For 
years, these women have paddled their canoes up 
this river with kegs of contraband liquor a-swing 
from ropes beneath and none of the force ever sus- 
pected. They were so monstrously civil, they 
would even give us ^a lift' if we desired it. I was 
liighly surprised when we found them out, and so 
disgusted with myself that, for a time, I thought 
of becoming a type-setter. By Jove! 3'ou know, 
a fellow doesn't expect to find a keg outside a 
anoe. Now does he f " 

But I am not one of those who believe tliere are 
irood women and bad women. Some are elemental 
and others are not; that is the only difference. I 
will maintain this to the very day my tongue 
wears out. 

Justine's white father must have had a head 
and shoulders of the most perfect classical type. 
As she sits on the beach with a light shawl drawn 
dowTi over her head, this girl resembles greatly 
the Madonna of Bouguereau. I tell her this, and 
w(^ talk for a long while. She thinks my suggestion 
that she marry a riverman, or a trapper, and have 
(luite a large family, a wholly foolish suggestion. 



98 SEEDS OF PINE 

It causes her to think little of both my discern- 
ment and my knowledge of men. Rivermen, she 
would have me understand, hardly ever come 
liome, and when they do, only to get drunk and 
beat their wives. A white man won't marry a breed 
girl, nowadays, and if he should give her his 
heart, he expects it to be returned sometime. Still, 
Justine considers his transient affections to be 
preferable to those of the breed's, in that a white 
man seldom strikes his girl. Justine gives me a 
short lesson in Cree, and, among other words, I 
learn that saky hagen is the equivalent of "one I 
love," and that nichimoos means "sweetheart." 
The former is usually applied to a child, the lat- 
ter to an adult. 

When I ask Justine to tell me a story about the 
North, she complies because she has been educated 
in a mission school and speaks English well. And 
then she is not in the least afraid of me since I 
showed so lamentable a lack of insiglit about 
marriage. Now listen to the story. 

Once a mallard who was sick of love asked a 
blackbird to marry him. "Marry me," he said, 
* ' and I will give you fish to eat and wild rice. And 
when the sun is hot, I will hide you in the rushes 
and keep you under my wings." 

And so they lived together as man and wife and 
the blackbird bore her husband three sons, but 
soon he tired of her and made believe he was dead 
so that she went away and left him in peace. 

And then the mallard went in search of another 
wife .... It was a story I craved of Justine, and 
lo ! she has told me a parable. 



CHAPTER IX 



AT THE LANDING. 



A city founded is no city built 

Till faith becomes prolific by the fathering tale 

Of good report and all-avaiUng effort. 

J. M. Haspzs. 

The sweet of life is something small, 
A resting by a wayside wall 
With God's good sunshine over all. 

R. W. Gilbert. 

Tins is the rainy season at Athabasca Land- 
ing, so that the streets are very muddy. 
Long ago, it was like this in Edmonton, my 
(continuing city, but when we were come to a very 
considerable puddle our escorts carried us. This 
is why big, fine-looking men were in high de- 
mand. 

But, this day, by some strange providence, the 
glut of rain has abated and the clemency of the 
sky fills me wHth an importunate inclination to 
gad about and use my eyes. There are no moments 
to be lost, to-morrow it is sure to be raining again. 
Never was land more golden; never one more 
grey. 

Here at the Landing, it makes no difference 
where one goes in search of diversion, for it 
is to be found in all directions and every foot of 

99 



100 SEEDS OF PINK 

the way. This morning I preferably take to tlie 
hill back of the to\vn, for the water has drained 
off it to the river and the footing is good. 

The hill is held by the Honourable the Hudson's 
Bay Company, who have owned it time out of 
mind. It hurts the Company to sell land, for tliey 
are the true lineal descendants of that classical 
tree which groaned with torture when a limb w^as 
dissevered from its trunk. This being the case, 
they may be expected to hold the hill until the 
municipality taxes it away from them. 

Ignorant people like the wheat-sellers of Win- 
nipeg, speak of this settlement as a new place, a 
nuishroomic upstart of j^esterday, whereas it was 
an old post before Winnipeg was thought of. 
North of the Landing, there are thirty thousand 
people who depend on the local rivermen to bring 
down their year's supplies, so that this is a place 
of no small concernment and it has seven streets, 
3^ou might say. As yet, its houses and public 
buildings do not run to paint or useless orna- 
mentations, and there is a stolid practicability 
about its front doors. 

But about the hill: Terry, who is in 'Hhe 
Mounted," tells me it is a walk of three cigarettes 
to the top of it, but two if you step lively. This 
Terry has a bold and busy fancy, and if he cared 
to write, he would, like Xenophon, be *'an author 
of wonderful consequence." Once, he tried to set 
dowTi a story, but it was like trying to make a fire 
with a wet match. 



AT THE LANDING 101 

Aha! ToiTV, Aha! you have said it exactly — 
defined it to a hairVbreadth — the plight of the 
authors who would rise up on wings as eagles but 
only they faint and are weary. A wet match! 
What greater or more invincible deterrent could 
exist to the kindling of a fire? If Terry's manners 
were less adroit and his hair less curly, I could 
almost love him. I am half-purposed to anyway. 

And now that we are on matters literary I wish 
to announce that some day, when my thoughts 
have come to issue, I intend writing an article on 
the evil taste of pen-handles. There are several 
million dollars in store for the man who Tsnll 
manufacture handles that are toothsome — say of 
licorice, cinnamon, or sassafras wood, or of some 
composition agreeable to the palate. The connec- 
tion between the tongue and the pen is a much 
closer one than generally recognized. 

We might even have pl^easantly medicated pen- 
handles guaranteed to stimulate our addled heads, 
or — Heigh, my hearts of the fourth estate! — to 
fill us with an irresistible desire to work when 
there is music and laughter dowmstairs, or a horse 
and sunshine out of doors. The invention of such 
a pen could not fail to be imparted as righteous- 
ness, . . . The roses are in full blast, and all the 
way along I walk the earth in a fine rapture. On 
the hill-top, there is a spread of blue hyacinths 
like a torn veil that has been thrown to the earth. 
Here, in bewildering array, grow wild parsnips, 
feverfew, painter's brush, mint-flowers, and lilies 
that flame riotously across the sheens and greens 



102 ' SEEDS OF FINE 

of the open ways. I love the crimson glories of 
tliese lilies; they seem to bring grist to life. In- 
deed, there is no question but they do. 

The poplars and cottonwoods are hanging out 
long tassels of woolly silver. It is a pity these do 
not pledge fruit like the tassels of the Indian corn. 
Mayhap, some day, a scientist will cause the black 
poplar to produce something for the sustenance of 
the North. Even the honey which the bees store 
in its cavities becomes bitter and acrid to the 
taste. Or it may happen we shall discover a 
cordial substance which will transmute the tassels 
of the poplar into something else — say into mul- 
berries. Long ago, the English orchardists be- 
lieved such things to be possible, for, in the 
fourteenth century, one wrote down that "a 
peach-tree shall bring forth pomegranates if it be 
sprinkled with goat's milk three days when it 
beginneth to flower." 

It is good to be here this day enjoying the pleas- 
ant amity of the earth and sky. One may draw- 
physical and spiritual renovation from both. It 
is very good to feel on one's face the soft-handed 
wind that is seldom still. This is the kindly 
unrestricted breeze which brings gifts to the 
North and West. It blesses the grain by swaying 
it to and fro, for the word **bless" means literally 
to fructify, (m son^.e such day as this I vill come 
back here from '.iie dead. 

On this hill, the Hudson's Bay Company, the 
world's oldest trust, have erected their store- 
house and factor's residence. Tliese are log build- 



AT THE LANDING 103 

ings, aiisteioiy square and ugly iu the extreme. 
In the factor's garden is an old sundial which 
adds the needed touch of romance to the place; 
also, it connotes a fine leisureliness. 

The erstwhile typical regime of a Hudson's Bay 
fort is a phase of existence which shortly will be 
sponged off human memory. It has never been 
as fully explained to me as I could desire, but as 
nearly as I can make out, the staff of a well-man- 
ned post consisted of the factor and chief factor, 
the trader and chief trader, an accountant, a post- 
master, two or more clerks, a cooper, a carpenter, 
a blacksmith, and labourers, the work of the last 
ii: 'ntioned being to haul water, cut wood, and 
secure meat. There were also as many cooks 
as required. Food was sometimes scarce, so that 
the men were required to lick their platters clean. 
Contrariwise, they drank not a little of heady 
beverages which they are said to have ''carried 
welh" 

The Indian's idea of a house is a different one 
to the trader's. It is not a place to be lived in, but 
exists merely as a shield from the weather. Accom- 
panied by Goodfellow, a frowsy, stump-tailed 
dog from the hotel, I visited the Indian houses 
hereabout. Goodfellow came with me, not as a 
protector, but because he wouldn't be driven back, 
lie is a reprobate cur, forever spoiling for a fight; 
a natural born feudist who lives in a state of viol- 
ent excitement. Terry says he is "no ])loomin' 
lap-dog," but a four-legged incarnation of the 
devil himself. Sometime soon, this dog's day will 



104 SEEDS OF PINE 

be over, for he is surely going to die of lead 
poisoning. 

All the way to the Indians, with a stupid malig- 
nity, and in defiance of the plainest laws of fence, 
Goodfellow gave chase to every cat and rabbit 
and bit every cow. It is not open for me to say 
what I thought of him, except that his conduct was 
solidly wrong. It was, accordingly, of high grati- 
fication to the rancour I hid in my heart when the 
Indians' huskies made short shrift of him. Like 
Humpty Dumpty, it will be had to put him to- 
gether again. They are no dealers in sophistries, 
these wide-mouthed wolf-dogs, with their wicked 
teeth, and would fight against the stars in their 
courses. 

When the women have beaten them off and 
learn I am not offended concerning Goodfellow 's 
drubbing, they are pleasant to me. A thin, pock- 
marked squaw invites me into a shack or, more 
properly speaking, into a baby-Avarren which 
fairly bristles with a flock of semi-wild children, 
for, as yet, the squaws have not deliberately ceased 
from Having children. 

AVhat I said awhile ago about the Indian's 
house applies equally to his children's wearing 
apparel. It shelters rather than ornaments. Their 
clothes seem to have no visible supports, but are 
held to their small fat bodies by some inexplicable 
attraction. One may see the same phenomenon 
on the apostolic figures on stained glass windows. 

A chocolate-coloured baby with blackberry eyes 
is propped against the Avail in a moss bag, and 



AT THE LANDING 105 

looks I'or all the world like a cocoon that might 
auy moment push off its sheath and take to wings. 

An unsavoury mess of entrails is stewing in a 
black pot and filling the house with an unpleasant 
odour. I try not to show my repugnance lest my 
hostesses consider the white woman to be proud- 
stomached with no proper appetite for lowly far- 
ing. I tell them as I take dowTi the bla^iket from 
the door — not untruthfully you understand, but 
as a small matter of immediate expediency — how 
it is light one desires rather than fresh air, and 
that it is hard to see aright when one has been 
walking in the sunlight. 

This Hudson ^s Bay blanket is, next to uskik, the 
kettle, the one indispensable thing in an Indian 
household. It serves as a door, a coat, a carpet, 
a bed, and for other things which it boots not to 
mention. It is, therefore, well to be explanatory 
when one removes it from its place, just as it is 
^vise to apologize when one pokes an Englishman's 
fire of coals. 

Mrs. Lo tells me the old woman who is making 
moccasins is Naka, which word, she explains for 
ray better understanding, is the Cree for "My 
Mother." Naka is a very old woman and "can no 
English say." Neither can she be considered as 
typical of AVTiistler's mother. 

There are amusing things to be done in this 
shack. For instance, you may by signs and smiles 
make Naka, my mother, to understand how you 
greatly desire to sew upon the moccasins she 



106 SEEDS OF PINE 

holds, and Naka may, in the amiability of her dis- 
position, accede to your importunity. 

As thread, deer sinew is not so easily manipu- 
lated as you might imagine; indeed, I should say 
it is distinctly uncontrollable. The audience, in 
spite of its manifest efforts at politeness, is never- 
theless widely diverted. Who would have thought 
a white woman could be so droll in the woods, 
and so very stupid? 

Huh ! Huh ! she may be so stupid that even old 
Naka, who is a proper woman with her needle, 
has to scrub the air with her arms and show her 
yellow gums in laughter. 

Their always wakeful curiosity leads the maid- 
ens to enquire as to what might be inside a white 
woman's hand-bag, and that they may sufficiently 
know about this matter, the white woman empties 
it upon her knees. Immediately, the articles are 
passed around for appraisal and approval. Bank 
cheques! . . . Oui! Oui! The men who work on 
the boats get these. The girls know how it is 
talking paper to get money. 

My penknife, pencil, note-book, purse, and 
handkerchief are duly examined and quietly 
conmiented upon, but a package of tablets packed 
in a silver paper, and small tube of cold cream, 
cause no small flutter in our circle. When I am 
through demonstrating their use, every one's 
breath is laden with the odour of mint, and their 
liands with that of roses. Um — m — m — mh ! 

The women feel my arms, try on^ my bracelet 
and rings, and ask me to take off my hat that they 



AT THE LANDING 107 

may see my hair, which, alas! is devoid of all 
waywardness and coquetry. I can see they are 
disappointed in this and think me what Artemus 
Wards calls '*a he-looking female." 

In one shack to which the girls accompany me, 
an emaciated, coughing boy is bed-ridden and 
near to death. Lili Abi has him in her arms, and 
lie may not go free. 

Who this Lili Abi, or Lilith, is does not certain- 
ly appear, but, according to the Rabbins who 
wrote of old time, she is the first wife of Adam 
and queen of the succubi. Some there are who 
declare this to be an ill-framed story, and a con- 
ceit of the fancy, but others hold it as a creed that 
she lives by sucking the blood of children till they 
fade away and die. It is from Lili Abi that we get 
our word lullaby. The malific lullaby she sings 
has come nigh to breaking the heart of humanity, 
))nt, one day, it shall happen that a sure and 
strong-handed scientist will get a strangle hold on 
Lili Abi and pierce her to death with his slender 
but omnipotent needle. 

Amil, who is the lad's father, says, '*I am 
mooch scare' 'bout leetle boy, for sure. I ees 
pray all tarn to de holy mother. Mabbe he ees 
get well ... la bonne chance . . . mabbe non ! Leetle 
boy sing all de tam when he ees well. ' ' 

Amil has never been to the south, or over the 
mountains, but he has heard much about these 
countries. He 1ms been told how, in the United 
States, they do not believe in the pope and get 
married manv times. He has also heard that the 



108 SEEDS OF PINE 

Yankees mean to conquer Canada and pull down 
the tricolor. 

Micliele Daubeny, who once went across the 
mountains to where the fish-eaters are, told him 
that the ocean never freezes. But this Michele 
has a tongue which is not straight, also he has 
been knoMH to steal fur out of the traps, so that 
Amil does not know what to believe. 

'*I have mak rip'ly," says Amil, "dat mabbe 
by 'me by, I ees tak de trail dem queeck an' see 
Icichekume, de great sea water, to myse 'f . ' ' 

And when I leave the shacks and go back to- 
wards the village, I fall in with some swart brood- 
lings, who are shooting with arrows. At first, they 
will have none of me until I make the mortifying 
confession and concession that I cannot shoot and 
desire greatly to be taught. After this, nothing 
could exceed their pedagogic enthusiasm. Apollo, 
prince of archers, could do no better. 

In the pale face, the hunting instinct, while 
never entirely lost, is still greatly modified. In 
the red man it is a passion. AVatch this little 
lean-*bellied Indian as he stalks his game. The 
bird rises and settles again a few yards away. The 
boy trails it up closer and closer with a feline 
softness of tread, a queer slurring movement that 
belongs only to animals of prey, and then, stand- 
ing taut and tense as a finely-bred setter making 
game, he concentrates the w^hole energy of his 
body on one piercing point and sends his nn-ow 
home. 

The bow-and-arrow stage through which these 
Indian lads are pn^^iii" corresponds in the white 



AT THE LANDING 109 

boy to that inevitable condition of development 
known as gun fever. In our city, at a highly 
immoral price, we dress up in khaki the boys 
of the lower classes, give them guns, and call them 
scouts. I like the Indian way better. Of course, 
there is this to be said for our method, that it 
instils a martial spirit into the youngsters so that 
when they are grown larger we shall have no lack 
of soldiers. This is a statement so obvious and 
axiomatic that it hardly needs writing down. 

AVell, so be it! How else are our bonds to be 
protected! And may not the lower classes be 
relied upon to constantly produce batches of boys 
to step into the ranks? Yes! I believe in Boys' 
Brigades and in war. I have some bonds myself. 

In the village, several homesteaders who are 
trending northward to the Peace River country, 
I'ave drawn up to the hotel. Their wagons are 
piled high with farm implements and household 
stuff which they purchased at Edmonton. 

All of these people are topful of enthusiasm, 
being of wise and gallant mind. Indeed, the 
whole country seems surcharged with it and even 
the poplars clap thoir hands. The settlers will 
tell you the only knocker here is Opportunity, 
riiere is always a mirage in the pioneer's sky 
which, God bo ])raisod, he manages to haul down 
bit by bit and pin to the solid earth. "The pins?" 
you ask. Ah yes! I may as well tell you; they 
are surveyors' stakes and tamarack fence-poles. 

1 have some little talk with a woman who is 
resting on the balcony while her horses are being 



110 SEEDS OP PINE 

fed. She comes from the United States and, until 
her marriage three months ago, practised her 
profession as a trained nurse. Her husband is 
going to make entry for a homestead, and when, in 
three years, he has ' * proven up, ' * they will open a 
store in one of the villages. By that time, the 
railway will have reached their district. Here is 
a woman of varied interests and many pursuits; 
one with more than an arm up her sleeve. I am 
doubly sure of her practicability now that slio has 
told me of the stuff she has packed in the corners 
of the wagon, and in the narrow spaces between 
the household utensils. She has seeds for her 
kitchen garden, also sweet peas, mignonette, sun- 
flowers, hollyhocks, and pansies. The firebox of 
her stove contains a hand sewing-machine, while 
the oven is the receptacle for a guitar, some music 
a surgical case, a box of medicines, a small look- 
ing-glass, two metal candlesticks, a roll of colour- 
ed pictures for her walls, a few thin paper classics, 
stationery, fishing-tackle, and a well-stored work- 
bag. The matches she carries in a case with a 
close top, while the groceries are packed in tin 
bread boxes whicli will serve the same end in her 
new home. Besides their cooking utinsels, toilet 
articles, clothing, blankets, and tent, this couple 
carry a rifle, a shot-gun, ammunition, and other 
small but useful things like a map, a compass, and 
an almanac. The wagon has a canvas top. 

One man who is also heading for the far north 
tells me he has sold everything from painkiller to 
mining stock. Of late, he has been selling real- 



AT THE L.VNDING 111 

estate, but the bottom has dropped out of this 
biisiiiesss. For the future, he intends raising 
potatoes on the land instead of prices. He has 
''cleaned up'* eight thousand dollars in real- 
estate, but he wishes me to understand he made 
this honestly by taking options on property and 
selling before the options came due. 

With remarkable precision of language, he ex- 
plains how the slump in real-estate is chiefly due 
to those large, didactic gentlemen of slow consci- 
ence and insulting superior manner who come here 
by the trainload and tell the North she is still a 
flapper, and that it is unbecoming of her to do up 
her hair and lengthen her skirts, after which cheap 
and unsolicited advice, they take themselves and 
their pestiferous money homewards. 

Their opinions are quoted from the Atlantic to 
the Pacific, which I must know takes in Spruce- 
ville, till the bankers are seized with the com- 
plaint known as cold feet — pest take them! — and 
"got orders from headquarters" to close up all 
outstanding accounts. These banker fellows, my 
informant says, lose their beauty sleep, but as far 
as he can see, lose nothing else. A business man 
may be potentially rich and yet be put into 
bankruptcy by a corporation, the spoils going to 
the corporation, or its manager. There should be 
a law against elderly wide-jawed financiers who 
prophesy hard times because, \\ath them, the wish 
is father to the thought. There is nothing in all 
the world they desire so much in order that they 
may, by their phenomenal rates of interest, pillage 



112 SEEDS OF PINE 

the country to their heart's satisfaction. So gain- 
ful is their pursuit, my friend will not be at all 
surprised if, at the last day, it is found that these 
tongue-lolling financiers have a lien on heaven; 
indeed, he believes this to be inevitable. Owing 
to the fact that we are unaccustomed to it, the 
process of thinking is a somewhat painful one to 
us of Alberta, but it is wonderful what flashes of 
illumination come to us sometimes. 

To-day, the first train of cars has entered this 
place. It belongs* to the Canadian Northern 
Railway Company. For many years Edmonton 
wa's known as the last house in the world. This, 
of course, was not literally true, and it would be 
hard to state where or which is the ultimate 
hearth-stone in this very good land of Canada, but 
assuredly Edmonton w'as the last post-office and, 
until this year, the End of Steel. To-day, this 
road is born. "WTien will it die? We fall into a 
way of thinking it is here for eternity, but rail- 
ways vanish like everything else. Even the great 
Appian Way, which lasted for over two thousand 
years, has, in these last centuries, become little 
more than a name. 

To build even one of our railways, a hundred 
forests are sacrificed, and, in the uncanny gloom 
of the dead country which lies in the heart of the 
earth, thousands of bowed, grim workers toil, 
Vulcan-like, for the iron to make its spikes and 
nails. 

I^he railroad seems like a huge centipede with 
rails for the body, ties for the limbs and smoke 



AT THE LAXDIXO 113 

i«»r the breath. Th«^ iik*ii wlio stand hy her side 
are the waiters who feed her with coal and slake 
her thirst with water. Sometimes, when she is 
weary of the freij]chtage tliese men lay upon her, 
she rises and crushes it to atoms. Men call this 
happening *'a ])roken rail*' or "an open switch," 
l)ut we know better. 

Or we may think of the railroad as a streak of 
light through desolate places Celling the pioneer to 
be strong and of good courage vdth the hope of 
better days. 

Or, again, it is a belt which binds the lustrous 
provinces of the East and West into the eager 
land of Canada. A\niat odds that the belt, par- 
taking of its environment, is rocky here or sandy 
there, so long as it be really a belt! 

No one can truly say when this road will die. It 
may be — if one may hazard so saucy a suggestion 
— that the airships will kill her by taking her 
traffic in men and merchandise. And maybe the 
great-grandchildren of the "Coming Canadians" 
who arrived this ye^r from Scandinavia or 
Austria, will plough long furrows on her right- 
of-way and haul off her bridge timbers for fire- 
wood. Guesswork all ! 

[ might have gone on musing about this rail- 
way until now, and computing what its advent 
means to the North, the country which has hither- 

' been the land of the dog and the canoe, had not 
a commanding voice bade me come and "drape" 
myself with the crowd beside the first train in 
order to have my picture taken. 



114 SEEDS OP PINE 

"I won't go! not a toe," said I, but I went, for 
no woman wlio is even fairly normal can success- 
fully resist having her photograph taken. She 
always hopes it will turn out better than the last 
one, and I hoped so too. 



CHAPTER X 



ON THE ATHABASCA RIVEB 



I am but mad north-northwest: when the wind is southerly, 
I know a hawk from a handsaw. — Hamlst. 

ALL the world is a deluge of rain when we 
leave Athabasca Landing, and we wait at 
the hotel till the last minute, hoping tlie 
stonn may abate in order that we may reach our 
steamer without losing too much starch. But the 
horn is making the asthmatic lamentations, mean- 
ing thereby that everybody should be aboard, so 
we say good-bye to all at the hotel; promise to be 
good ; to take care of ourselves ; and to come back 
soon. I say "we" because it is journalistic 
etiquette to be impersonal, but actually there is 
only myself, the other passengers having gone 
down to the river over an hour ago. 

It is a troublous jaunt which I make, for a 
streak of ^\'ind turns my umbrella into a cornu- 
copia: the fat drops of rain splash into my eyes; 
I take the wrong turn, get mired and lose my rub- 
ber shoes. When the river is reached, I find the 
descent to the steamer is buttered with mud and 
so steep that sliding is the only method of loco- 
motion possible. 

115 



ll!i SEEDS OF PTNE 

A vastly tall man stands on the gangway at tlie 
foot of the hill ; holds out a pair of arms that must 
measure ten feet from tip to tip and says, **Come 
on, lady." The lady comes, but with such impact 
that we nearly go through to the opposite side of 
the steamer. Our final resting place is on a 
banana crate, which, in all conscience, is yielding 
enough, the fruit proving to be over-ripe. The 
passengers are distinctly amused, but the freight 
master is in no gallant temper over it and disap- 
proves of the whole affair. I could tell you what 
he said to the vastly tall man, but you w^ould have 
to come very close to hear me. 

After supper, which consists of beef with stuf- 
fing, macaroni with cheese, pork with beans, white 
fish, stewed tomatoes, escalloped corn, boiled 
potatoes, walnut pickles, catsup, soda biscuits, 
pumpkin-pie, apple-pie, currant buns, cocoanut 
cake, cheese, coffee, stewed figs, tooth-picks and 
other things which I cannot remember, I crawl 
to the deck to find out where Grouard is, and how 
we are to get there. 

Although thither bound, my knowledge of its 
location is shamefully vague. Here is what I 
learn. We sail north and west on the Athabasca 
River till we come to Mirror Landing, at the con- 
fluence of the Athabasca and Lesser Slave River, 
at which point we leave the steamer and make a 
portage of fourteen miles to Soto Landing. This 
portage is to avoid the government dams which 
have been built to make the Lesser Slave River 
navigable. At Soto Landing we embark on the 



I 



ON THE ATHABASCA RIVER 117 

Midnight Suu, another steamer of the Nortliern 
Navigation Company, and travel on till we enter 
Lesser Slave Lake, down which we journey to its 
extreme western end, where Grouard sits on a hill 
overlooking a bit of the lake called Buffalo Bay. 
Without mishaps, we ought to reach Grouard in 
four or five days, but no one will cut off our heads 
if we loiter a bit on the way. 

There are about thirty male passengers on 
board and seven women. This half-hour I liave 
been talking to a plausible prolix villain whom it 
would bo (asy to like greatly. He is going U) mako 
three riillion dollars from his oil-wells on the 
Mackenzie River. He says so himself. He has 
been df.wn north for several years and walks like 
one who has been used to the spring of a snow- 
shoe beneath his foot. His clothes have the odour 
of the forest — that is to say of leaf mould, poplar 
smoke and spruce resin. He went to England two 
years ago to persuade Grandfather Bull to invest 
in oil and asphaltum, but was not as successful as 
he could desire. "I figure,'' he says, *'it w^ill take 
another century to convince Grandfather, and by 
that time the fourth generation of America * Coal- 
oil .Tohnnies' will have squandered the dividends 
on actresses and aeroplanes. Pouf ! these Ameri- 
cans have no idea the world belongs to the Lord." 

It was well I agreed with him so civilly, for he 
said, '*If you wish to invest in some oil-stocks. 
Madam — and no doubt you will after what I have 
told you — I will see to it that you get in on the 
ground-floor and no questions asked." 






118 SEEDS OF PINE 

Now I did not like to ijiquire of him what is 
ineaiit by the ground-floor, lest he should think 
me the veriest igiioramus, but I am persuaded it 
means something most excellent, for I have fre- 
quently heard promoters mention it to people like 
me, who have not much money to buy with. 

This man originally hailed from New Zealand, 
but he tells me that country is no good; it is too 
far from Fort McMurray. ' At Fort McMurray 
life is one round of pleasurable anticipation and 
all the day seems morning. Who can tell at what 
moment a gusher may shoot into the clouds and 
blot out the sun itself! Then it's gorged with gold 
we should all be — those of us on the ground-floor 
— and archmillionaires, with hundreds of uni- 
versities and public libraries to give away. AVhat 
would be the use of having oil and hiding it under 
bushels of rocks, we 'd like to know. 

At this point the purser explains that the 
steep ascent to our right is called Bald Hill. It 
can be seen from a long distance, and is one of 
the features of the landscape from which, in the 
winter, the freighters measure distances — a kind 
of millarium or central milestone. Surely this is 
a country of vast horizons, both mentally and 
visually. 

About every twelve miles we pass a stopping 
place where the winter freighters and their teams 
are fed. These houses and stables are built of logs 
and are sheltered by the forest. I prefer to say 
they have a roof-tree, the words seeming to sug- 
gest a good deal more. In spite of their splendid 



ON THE ATHABASCA RIVER 119 

isolation, these stopping places do an excellent 
business and, while warm and well-provisioned, 
are still somewhat in the rough. The purser says 
this roughness is not worth regarding, for while 
here is the country a fellow roughs it, in the city 
he **gets it rough." 

**And that reminds me, ladies, of my errand to 
you,** he continues; *'you are probably aware 
there are only sixteen bunks on this boat and eight 
mattresses. You, of course, will use your own 
blankets and pillows, but I perceive you have not 
secured mattresses. It would be wonderfully easy 
if you were to carry off one, or even two, from the 
priests* state-rooms, for at this very minute the 
priests say prayers on the lower deck. ' ' 

''And believe me," he concludes in a highly 
chivalrous manner, ''you two ladies have an un- 
questionable right to the mattresses, so that I shall 
consider your act to be one of perfect propriety." 
Thus encouraged by the pursuer I proceeded \\4th 
my room-mate to seize our "unquestionable 
rights," but, approaching the priests' door, my 
heart failed me, and our undertaking seemed a 
plain and undeniable demonstration of wickedness 
like the robbing of a child's bank. They are such 
quiet, well-deserving men, these eight black- 
smocked Brothers who are going North to the 
jubilee of the great Bishop Grouard, the like of 
whom there never was. Also, they are very polite, 
and the one who is an astronomer and comes from 
Italy, picked out the tenderest cut of beef for me 
at supper. 



120 SEEDS OF PINE 

*'Pray don't be silly," snorted my room-mate, 
' ' the rules of their Order say distinctly they shall 
deny themselves and not sleep softly. Besides, 
when men take terrible vows that they will never 
get married, it is a woman 's stoutest duty to steal 
their mattress whenever the opportunity serves. ' ' 

She also told me with rapid brevity some names 
which Clement of Alexandria, a Father of the 
Church, applied to women in the early days of 
the Christian era. She had read about them in a 
history 

In the falling of the night, at the mauve hour, 
our ship having been made fast, we go ashore and 
talk with the Indians who are camped here in a 
wigwam. » One of the passengers, who has lived 
among the Crees for many years, tells me I ex- 
press myself with redundancy in that the literal 
meaning of wigwam is camping-ground. She says 
the Indians have many grotesque folk tales, which 
are told by the men. Each story has a moral 
which they desire their wives to consider from an 
educative standpoint. Once there was a man 
whose utim (that is to say his dog) used to turn 
into an ishwao, or woman, when it became dark. 
She had yellow hair and her arms were white and 
soft like the breast feathers of a young bird. This 
happened long ago, before the Indians were 
baptized and when people were not so pious as 
they are now. Any man can do the same thing to 
this day if he happens to know the magic formula. 

There is also a tale about a woman of the woods 
whom we, in our scientific conceit, call the echo. 



U-N liiE ATUABAbCA KiVER 121 

Once when her man was away for many moons on 
the great sepe, or river, the woman took another 
husband, so that when her man came back slie 
flouted him and slapped his face. That night the 
moon changed her into a voice, and now she calls 
for her husband to come and love her, but he only 
mocks at her. 

This habit of the husbands in telling tales with 
palpable deductions attached would seem to be 
conmion to other races than the Indians, for the 
Romans, likewise, had a story about the echo. It 
appears that Jupiter confided to Madam Echo the 
history of his amours, and when she told his sec- 
rets among her friends she was deprived of speech 
and could only repeat the questions which were 
asked of her. The Cree story is the better one. It 
has a fine human motive which the other lacks, 
and also it drops, a much-needed tribute on the 
worn altar of domesticity. 

When a fire is lighted with birch bark and 
tamarack knots, we sit beside it and are more 
merry than you could believe. 

The sweetlieart of Jacques dances for us to the 
well-cadenced rhythm of a Tea Song. I cannot 
spell her Indian name, but it means **Fat of the 
Flowers," by which term they express our word 
"nectar." The cree is a droll language. 

**Hal He! ne inatatow. 
Ha! He! ne saghehow." 

she chants and rechants as the fitful flames make 
sharp liigh-lights on her dark skin, causing her to 



122 SEEDS OF PINE 

appear as the flying figure of a bronze Daphne, 
and, in truth, the boughs of the trees lend likeness 
to my fancy, for as she dances into them, thej' 
seem to absorb her, even as the laurel nbsoibed 
the Grecian nymph of old time. 

Translated literally, the words of the Tea Song 
read thus — 

" Ha ! He ! I love him. 
Ha! He! I miss him." 

This is a supremely cunning song, in that it 
utters in six words (if we exclude the interjec- 
tions) the smnmary of all the love songs which 
have ever been written — '*I love him : I miss him. " 
I am glad it was framed in the unsophisticated 
North. 

And Fat of the Flowers sings another song 
which is addressed to her lover. She is lonely for 
him, our interpreter explains, but drinks her 
tears in silence. Sometimes his presence comes to 
her in the hour of twilight, and she kneels to it as 
the poplar kneels to the wind. AVlien he returns 
to the camp fire she will give to him a blanket 
made out of the claw skins of the lynx, and a 
white and scarlet belt from the young quills of the 
porcupine. 

I can see that her honeyed words are agreeable 
to Jacques and give him fullness of pleasure, for 
there is a tell-tale joy in his face that refuses to be 
hid. 

Jacques, who is a riverman, was educated at a 
mission school on the Mackenzie, and he tells me 



ON THE ATHABASCA RIVER 123 

that Fat of tlie Flowers is nearly as "magiielo- 
quent" and clever as a man. He is almost sure 
there is a little white bird that sings in her heart. 

After a time, our dusky friends steal away one 
by one to tlieir rest, or tw^o by two. The ship lolls 
lazily on the bank and there is no sound save the 
whimper of the fire and the deep breathing of 
some over-tired sleeper, but once a sleeper 
laughed aloud. 

I step carefully between the recumbent forms on 
the deck lest I hurt them or disturb their quietude. 
I am sorry now that I stole the mattresses. Surely 
I am a bitter sinner and unlovely of heart. 

In the morning, when I told the Brothers how I 
had privily taken the mattresses because I dis- 
approved of their vows concerning marriage, and 
because of the unseemly remarks Clement of 
Alexandria had applied to women in the early 
days of the Christian era, they laughed again and 
again with much hilarity. Indeed, one of the 
Brothers said he applauded my moderation and 
marvelled that I was good enough to leave their 
blankets and pillows. Another gave it as his 
opinion that Clement's pleasantry was a shabby- 
minded one and needlessly sarcastic, the result of 
an ill-governed disposition. But this Brother, like 
the others, took full care to evade the question I 
had raised as to celibacy. . . . 

What Clement of Alexandria said was that 
women, like Egyptian temples, were beautiful 
without, but when you entered and withdrew the 
veil, there was nothing behind it but a cat or a 
crocodile. 



CHAPTER XI 

SOME NORTHERN PIONEERS 

Through these shores amid the shadows, with the apparitions 
pressing, 

'Moneers! O Pioneers! 

Whitman. 

IN the morning, soon after sunup, we continue 
our joyous journey on the Atliabasca, but the 
birds are out and about before us. An occa- 
sional duck rises off the water sharply with a 
whir of wet wings, but generally they are self- 
complacent and play at last across the road mth 
the ship, just as if they sought trouble and des- 
pised it. The young ducklings, who have only 
taken to water these few days agone, form them- 
selves into tiny rafts and one might almost expect 
to see a fairy step aboard them. The fish jump 
out of the water, praying to be caught. They look 
like strips of silver ribbon. Mr. Patrick 'Kelly, 
who is also watching their come and go, declares 
this to be a sign of rain. ''When birds fly low, 
lady, and when fish swim near the surface, it is 
well to bring in the clothes off the line." He also 
says that the plover's cry indicates rain, even as 
does its name — the pluvoivj or rain-bird. 

There are few birds to be seen, except an occa- 
sional hawk, who seems to have no other object 

124 



SOME NORTHERN PIONEERS 125 

than to curvet about and display liis clipper-built 
wings for our admiration. Sometimes he soars 
into the skies in order to exercise a keen vision 
that covers half the province, or, again, he ap- 
pears to hang in the air with an invisible string, 
so perfect is his poise. It is foolish to call hawks 
ravening birds and to impute evil motives to them. 
We only do this because they like chickens and 
other gallinaceous fowl whose end we should 
prefer to be pot-pie. This is not a reprobate 
taste on the hawk's part, for, of course, he has 
never read the game-laws, nor the Book of Leviti- 
cus, and cannot be expected to know that certain 
flesh, in certain localities, in certain seasons, is 
the particular appurtenance of the genus homo. 
In truth, we are so uninstructed in these laws 
ourselves that the govermnent must, perforce, 
keep game-wardens and the churches must keep 
preachers to educate us more fully. 

The Athabasca River, Mr. 'Kelly calculates, is 
about eight hundred feet wide and about twelve 
feet deep. Its current is about five or six miles an 
hour. The less said about its colour the better. 
At Athabasca Landing they use the water as a top- 
dressing for the land. 

I get on well \\4th Mr. 'Kelly because he does 
not mind answering questions, and I am rather 
stupid and do not understand irony, a fact now 
published for the first time. 

Mr. Patrick 'Kelly started on ''his owni" 
thirty years ago in Manitoba. His name isn't 
really O 'Kelly, but in this country a name is 



126 SEEDS OF PINE 

neither here nor there. He homesteaded one hun- 
dred and sixty statute acres, but to be a farmer 
one had to possess a capacity for waiting and he 
didn't possess it. After this, he became a pros- 
pector. Now, in prospecting, a man does njot have 
to wait : his money is always discernible to the eye 
of faith. Mr. 'Kelly still holds his on this un- 
negotiable, spiritualistic plane. In the meanwhile 
he is boss of a big lumber camp over Prince Albert 
way. He used to be a captain on this river, but he 
doesn 't captain any more. Some of these days he 
intends to take a wander back home. He hears 
that northern folk are foreigners in the South. 
This last remark is made with a rising inflor'tion 
as if an answer were expected. 

Who would have thought such a pathetic fear 
to be lurking under so confident and so square- 
shouldered an exterior? I can see now why Mr. 
'Kelly finds it hard to get away. Without let- 
ting him know that his secret is suspected, I try 
to explain how it is the northerners who have 
changed. We pioneers talk of going home but we 
really never go back — that is the person who went 
away. This may be equally true of all migrants 
who go into a far country, whether it be Abraham 
who went into Ur of Chaldea, or Reginald of 
Oxford who goes into Saskatchewan. 

There are several scribes on board, and one of 
them, *'a editor in human form," gives us greeting 
and joins our company. He is a thin, straight 
young fellow with a likeable face, but his hair is 
shockingly awry. 



SOME N-ORTHERX PIONEERS 127 

'*S«» \uii air an fuiioi, >a \ .> Mr. O 'Kelly. 
*'Your unpeaccable tribe has committed much 
damage in this country." 

"AMiat do yon mean by calling us a tribe? I 
conceive that you are an old fool and perhaps a 
liberal in politics. Although I am an editor, and 
by no means proud, I consider myself to be much 
better than you." 

"Young person! you mean you are no worse," 
answers Mr. 0*Kelly, "but, in faith, I meant no 
offence and I am not a liberal." 

Being thus reassured, the editor proceeds to 
discuss his difficulties with us. He has been 
treated with great unfairness in one of the north- 
ern towns. They gave him a fine mouthful of 
promises when he went there, but they gave him 
nothing else. They failed to pay their subscrip- 
tions and their advertisements, so that he had to 
leave the place naked and ashamed. Some day, he 
is going to write a story in an American magazine 
and describe this town as a real-estate office in a 
nmskeg. It will be marrow to his bones, and he 
will let the magazine have the story for nothing. 

Or, worse still, he will tell the truth about all the 
leading citizens: he will set it down without 
equivocation or shadow of turning. 

"But you wouldn't do this latter," I argue; 
"only a man with ink for blood could do so ter- 
rible a thing." 

"On the contrary, lady," snaps he, "I shall 
take blood for ink, that is what I will do." 



128 SEEDS OF PINE 

'^But," said I, **you must expoct to be beat a 
Tew times in your life, little man, if you live such a 
life as a man ought to live, let you be as strong 
and healthy as you may." This was quite a clever 
answer, and I wish Charles Kingsley had not said 
it first, then it would have been original with mo. 

This young editor talks with so much vigor and 
so many gesticulations one might think he was 
acting a picture for a biograph machine. It is a 
pity his political heroes do not avail themselves of 
his services. As a fighter, the dear lad would have 
a fine genius if properly incited; also, he has a 
marvellous vocabulary of flaming adjectives. 

There is an Indian woman on the ship who is 
married to a white man, who seems most kind to 
her. The northern woman who interpreted the 
Tea Song for me, says this man believes the world 
well lost for love, his heart being very full and his 
head very empty. You will observe that this 
northern woman is a philosopher, probably owing 
to the fact that she has had little to read and 
plenty of time to think. She was born in this 
country over fifty years ago but was educated in 
the South. At the age of sixteen, she married a 
Factor of tlie Hudson's Bay Company, and is now 
his widow. This year agone she has been in 
Euiope, but has returned once more to her native 
North with its hidden wilds and yet unhappened 
things. I tell you that some secret presage lies 
upon this land, and one who has sensed it must 
come back again and again to its intangible al- 
lurement. It may be the strong, austere spirit of 



SOME XORTHERX PIONEERS 129 

the land that holds one; or the vast voids of the 
sky, with their blue and gold, and blue and silver. 
Or it may be that Tornarsuk, the great devil of 
the Arctic, who rides on the wind, steals from 
their breasts the midget souls of humans so that 
they belong to him and must follow whither he 
wills. It is not for me to know the reason, or to 
tell it to you, for I am southron bom and cannot 
construe aright. 

Time was when this woman only tasted flour 
once- a year. It was in Xew Year*s Day, when her 
mother baked cakes for the gentlemen who came 
to pay their respects to her — the doctor, the mis- 
sionary, the clerks at the post, or the visitors 
from other posts. On the first of these occasions 
her mother, \Wth an ill-grounded confidence, 
passed the plate of cakes to the earliest visitors 
80 that there were no cakes left for the callers 
who came afterwards. 

When flour became more plentiful, it was her 
mother's custom to have cakes every Sunday 
evening. A cake was baked for each member of 
the family and one for the plate. No one dreamed 
of taking the last cake. It would have been ac- 
counted a gross breach of etiquette to have done 
so, and one not to be thought of. 

"But what became of it?" I ask; *'who ate it 
ultimately? Surely some one knew?" 

Apparently no one did, for I am answered by a 
lift of one shoulder, suggestive of ignorance and 
possibly indifference — a little defensive shrug 
which precludes further intrusion into the subject. 



130 SEEDS OP PINE 

It is unkind of her to leave me with this worrying 
problem, for there are fifty-two cakes a year to be 
disposed of, and I may never hope to dispose of 
them alone. 

The Indian woman who has the white husband 
gives mo bon-bons from a box she purchased in 
Edmonton last week. Nothing so makes for con- 
fidence in women as to eat sweets together. Auth- 
ors write much about breaking bread and the 
sacredness of salt, but, in actual life, nothing 
cements friendship like chocolate drops. Tliis is 
why the woman opens her heart to me and says 
she desires to write a book — a great book about 
the white people of whom she knows many things. 
I have no doubt she does, and that if she put down 
all that is in her heart without one glance at the 
gallery and without trimming her language to 
the rules of syntax, her book would be the literary 
sensation of the year. 

She wants to know if ever I wrote a book. Now, 
once I did, but it was a simple book, so that wise 
people did not care so much as one finger's fillip 
for it, but, sometime, I am going to put all their 
counsel together and compose a really great one. 
It will not be disjointed, but will flow along with- 
out a break in the smooth, natural way people 
talk when they are alone with their families. It 
shall concern psychic phenomena, yearnings, root- 
causes, the untrammelled life, strange decaden- 
cies, and things like that. It shall be paradoxical, 
epigrammatic, erudite, even vitriolic. I will pierce 
the self-conceit of these Canadians and tell them 



SOME NORTHERN PIONEERS 131 

iiii-; ii.iM' infu lo mend their manners; tiial liiey 
are primitive beasts — even Diprotodons. 

Now the Diprotodon was a kind of ferocious 
kan<raroo, carnivorous and predaceous, whicli 
lived in the Tertiary Period and had a skull three 
feet in leni^th. Those who are not of this species, 
I shall designate as fanatics who cling to worn-out 
shibboleths over which they snarl like pestilent 
dogs; or prigs who affect neurotic cults that are 
exceedingly false and not native to this country. 
I will be superior and insufferably arrogant so 
that they may be vastly annoyed with me and rage 
like the Psalmist's "heathen." I shall not be 
kindly to any, nor say them fair words, no matter 
how much I may desire to, nor how much it hurts 
nie to tell lies. 

Then will the wise people take their pens in 
hand to say that ''This writer is possessed of the 
discriminating sense to an extraordinary degree. 
She has vision, luminosity, verve, technique, and 
artistic self-restraint — these, and other palpable 
qualities which bid us hope, in spite of all which 
has been said to the contrary', that the time is 
not so hopelessly remote when Canada may lay 
some small claim to having a literature of her 
()^\^l." 

Oh Me! Oh Me! This is what they will say, 
and I ^411 laugh in my throat and in my sleeves. 
I win not care the point of one pencil what they 
say, so long as they refrain from using the ad- 
jective breezy. A\Tien a northern w^oman goes 
visiting and the wise people wish to be kind, they 



132 SEEDS OF PINE 

all apply this word to her. Wlien the dubious 
visitor looks into the dictionary for the exact 
meaning of breeze, she finds it stands for either 
an uproar or a gentle gale. People have been 
murdered for less obvious errors, so that all wise 
people will please to be forewarned. 

If you were to ask here what the Indian woman 
wished to write in a book about the white people, 
I would not be able to tell you, for, at this junc- 
ture, we all forgot to talk and crowded to the 
prow of the vessel to see a moose that swam bold 
ly ahead of us in the river. He kept far enough 
away to be out of range, so that no one shot him. 
I use the w^ord shot in deference to the untaught 
urban folk into whose hands this book may pass. 
What the men really desired was to "trump" him. 

We did not see him take to the bank, for we took 
to the bank ourselves in order to load wood for the 
engine. He is a worthy gentleman, the moose, and 
should be well esteemed. Dropped in a thicket, 
hunted by wolves, unprotected save by his sharp 
hoof, which, however, mil rip anything softer 
than a steel plate, he ranges the forests till his 
antlers are full-branched, and then, at the age of 
three, without costing the Province or the Indian 
a cent, he tips the scales at a thousand pounds of 
meat. 

We are invited to the tent of Mrs. Jack Fish, 
who receives us seated. This is not owing to any 
lack of hospitality on her part, but because she is 
very old and quite blind. The Oblate Brothers say 
she is over a hundred years old, and truly she 



SOME NORTHERN PIONEERS 133 

miglit pass for the honourable great-grandmother 
of all Canada. Her son, with whom she lives, 
minds a wood-pile on the Athabasca, but in the 
winter he has a house of logs at Tomato Creek to 
which he retires. All Indians live in tents from 
preference, and not from the sordid reason as- 
signed them by the would-be poet who declares 
that "Itchie, Mitchie lives in a tent," for '*He 
can't afford to pay the rent." There are no rent- 
ed houses in this country, and no man has ever 
heard of a landlord. Every person holds his 
house, or his several houses, in fee simple. In 
Great Britain, these residences would be desig- 
nated as "shooting boxes." 

Neither would it be a sign of mental superiority 
on the part of the traveller to consider Jack 
Knife's job a menial one. Banking situations or 
provincial politics may have an importance in the 
fence country, but in boreal regions the prime test 
of intelligence is a knowledge of how to handle a 
boat or an axe. 

Madam, our hostess, informs the Factor's 
widow that she keeps quite well except for an evil 
and tormenting spirit in her chest. She desires to 
know who are in our company, and when she 
learns that the Okimow, or Great Chief of the 
Peace River Country, is one of us, she asks for 
tobacco. Ah ! the Chief at Fort Edmonton would 
be generous to her, but he is dead now and there 
is no tobacco to soothe her pain. When she was 
young, her people fought with the Blackfeet tribe 
in the Bear Hills, and many of the Crees were 



VM SEEDS OF PINE 

scalped. She fled through the forests to Fort 
Edmonton, carrying her two children on her back, 
l)ut there was much rain and ahnost she was 
drowned crossing the rivers. That was many, 
many nesting-moons ago, and now she is old and 
her pipe is empty of tobacco. 

*'Is the kind lady going down the river to find 
a man ? ' ' 

No ! the kind lady has white hair and her man 
is dead. 

*'May be it is the Ohimowf" 

No! the Okimow has a wife in the South with 
browTi hair. 

Ah well ! Ah well ! but it was different when she 
was young. Then every woman's skin was full 
of oil and there w^ere many braves who loved her. 

After she has been led into the open, and has 
had her picture taken with us, the great Okimow 
takes her back to her blankets and fills her lap 
with a heap of pungent tobacco. It will be many 
moons before our honourable great-grandmother 
requires a fresh supply. "An old struggler," that 
is what I call her, after the beggar-woman who 
asked Sir Walter Scott for alms. 

The religion of the gentle Nazarene has cut the 
fighting sinews of the Indians. This was why the 
Christianized Hurons were brushed off the earth 
by the tigerish and unapproachable Iroquois. The 
Hurons became soft, and being soft, they became 
a prey. In some inexplicable way, we Anglo- 
Saxons have managed to keep our *bumps of ven- 
eration and combativeness well partitioned or 



SOME XORTHERN PIONEERS 135 

estranged and so keep mastery of tlie changeling 
tribes who permit them to conmaingle. This is 
why the Indians are a dying race in a new country. 
This is why our honourable great-grandmother 
whimpers for tobacco instead of hurling us over 
the bank and throwing her camp-fire on the top of 
us. I could almost find it in my heart to wish that 
she had. 



CHAPTER XII 

AT THE PARTING OF THE RIVERS 

" Think o' the stories round the cuinp, the yarns along the traclc 
O' Lesser Slave an' Herschel's Isle an' Flynn at Fond da Lac; 
Of fur and gun, an' ranch, an' run, an' moose an' caribou. 

An' bulldogs eatln' us to death! 

Good-bye — Good-luck to you!" 

MIKROR LANDING, where we leave the 
boat to make the portage to Soto Land- 
ing, is on the Lesser Slave River, at its 
confluence with the Athabasca. Its name has been 
well chosen, for the Lesser Slave River is a clear 
stream, and shows a kindly portrait to all who 
look therein. A telegraph office, an official resi- 
dence, a stable, and storage sheds are the only 
buildings. What is to be done with the portaging 
party, whom we have met here and who go back to 
Athabasca Landing on our boat, is beyond a mere 
woman to say. Both parties must spend the 
night here; there is only one bunk to every 
twenty persons, and those who hold possession 
utterly refuse to sleep outside with the mosquitoes 
and bulldog flies. Once I read a story in the Tal- 
mud which I considered wholly fabulous. It Avas 
about a mosquito saving the life of David when 
Saul hunted him upon the mountains. I no longer 
doubt this story, my incredulity having vanished 

136 



AT THE PARTING OF THE RIVERS 137 

this day with my courage. A mosquito is big 
enough to do anything. 

A member of the Royal Nortli-West Mounted 
Police, truly a most formidable appearing man, 
insisted on searching our luggage for contraband 
liquor. I was sorely displeased, and could have 
dealt him a clout with all my might, for the fro- 
ward manner in which he turned out my things 
to the public view. He might have kno^vn if I 
carried a flask, it would be in my coat pocket. His 
only find was an unbroached bottle of elderberry 
wine which a rancher's wife was bringing home 
for her dinner-party next Christmas. Be it said 
to the youth's credit that upon the circumstances 
being explained to him he returned the wine to 
her. He had no authority for so doing, but as- 
suiedly he had the countenance of a great example 
Yahveh of the Jews having aforetime "winked 
at" certain breaches of the law which He con- 
sidered to be the better kopt in their non-observ- 
ance. 

The liquor taken by the police is either given to 
tho hospital at Grouard or poured on the ground 
as a libation to Bacchus and his woodland troup. 
It is very foolish to ask the officer in command if 
his men ever drink themselves, for he will say, 
*'Pooh! Pooh! and use other argumentative 
exclamations that will fright you out of your wits. 
You would almost think the subject was loaded, 
and it takes a soft look and a wondrously soft 
answer to turn away his wrath. 

Early in the evening I was invited to browse 
at til*' officijil ii'sidj'Ticf*. and I had a good time; 



138 SEEDS OF PINE 

that is to say, I found it distinctly entertaining. 
*'! would say that you are very welcome/' re- 
marked my hostess as she lield out both her hands, 
"were it not that it seems an understanding of the 
fact. I have read your Sowing Seeds in Danny, 
and feel that I know you extremely well. ' ' 

It was fortunate I did not tell her she had con- 
fused me with Mrs. McClung, for she gave me 
eggs to eat that were most cunningly scrambled 
with cheese ; also many hot rolls sopped in butter, 
and yellow honey in its comb. 

This is a ramblesome bungalow and very com- 
fortable. Musical instruments, couches, big 
cushions, book-shelves and pictures take on a 
peculiar attractiveness when they are the only 
ones in a hundred miles or more. 

After supper we read Phil-o-rum Juneau, by 
William Henry Drummond, and discussed its rela- 
tion to the French Canadian legend. La Chasse- 
Gallerie. Of all our Canadian legends, I like it the 
best, and it may happen that you will too. It tells 
how on each New Year's Night the spirits of the 
woodsmen and rivermen are carried in phantom 
canoes from these lonely northlands back to the 
old homesteads in the south, where, unseen and 
undisturbed, they mingle with their friends. The 
father embraces his children ; the lover his maiden 
the husband his wife, and once more the son lays 
his head on his mother's lap. All of the voyageurs 
join the feast, the song, and the dance, so that no 
man is lonely in those hours, neither is he weary 



AT THE PARTING OF THE RIVERS' 139 

or sad. It is a better thing, I make believe, than 
even the eonuuunion of saints. But just before 
the dawn eonios, the wraith men find themselves 
back on the Athabasca, the Mackenzie and the 
Slave, and no one speaks of where he has been, or 
of what he experienced, for all this he must keep 
hidden in his heart. 

When, over a century ago, the legend first 
sprang to life, there were none save men to travel 
like this, but now, of times, a woman may travel 
too. I know this for a certainty in that each New 
Year's Night I go myself. In my dug-out canoe — 
delved from wishful thoughts and things like that 
— I take my hurried way across prodigious seas 
of ice where never living foot has fallen; adown 
ill-noted trails through silver trees; by hidden 
caverns that are the lairs of the running winds; 
over dark forests of pine and across uncounted 
leagues of white prairies which light up the dark- 
ness, till I come to the warmer southland, where 
youths and maidens make wreaths of greenery, 
and where mellow-voiced bells ring out the dying 
year. 

And when those who are my own people feel 
their hearts to be of a sudden rifled of love ; that 
some one has brushed their cheek, or that a head 
is resting on their shoulder, then do they know 
the exile has come back, for I have told them it 
will be thus. 

And you, my readers of the Seven Seas, now 
that we are friends and know each other closely. 



140 SEEDS OF ^INE 

will you of New Year's Night be keenly watchful 
too. 

It was here that our conversation wheeled off 
from the consideration of this legend to the north- 
ern postman. In the final sununary he must be 
classed among those peerless fellows who, because 
of their courage and incredible endurance, have 
won for Canada this myriad-acred but hitherto 
waste heritage. No man here who puts his hand 
to the mail bags must ever look back ; he must have 
the quality of keeping on against the odds. He is 
the modern young Lord Lochinvar, who stays not 
for brake and stops not for stone. Often his route 
is stretched out to hundreds of miles, and there is 
no corner grocery where he may thaw out his ex- 
tremities ^vhile mumbling driftless things about 
the weather and the government. 

Presently the railways will have taken over his 
perilous profession, and he will exist only as a 
memory of pioneer days. For this reason I took 
great heed while my host talked concerning him 
and of the qualities which go into making a suc- 
cessful postie under the aurora. He must be 
agile, light of weight, abstemious, trustworthy, 
tireless, thewed and sinewed like a hmx, and, 
above all, he nmst have wire-strung nerves. In a 
word, his profession requires a strong will in a 
sound body. 

''Does it ever happen that the mail is not de- 
livered?" I asked. 

My host hesitated, and made three rings of 
smoke while he considered the answer, as though 
lie would be sure-foofod a? to his facts. 



AT THE PARTING OF THE RIVERS 141 

** Sometimes it is not delivered, Madam," said 
he; "there may be an untoward happening, in 
which event its delivery depends upon the rorov- 
ery of the carrier's body." 

When he made another three rings of smoke he 
proceeded \\'ith the story. **Yes! the mail-carrier 
in this country is a special person and must not be 
judged as general. He deserves a much better 
reward than he gets. To my thinking, it is a vast 
pity poetic justice so frequently fails. It may be 
that some day you will write a story about us 
Northmen, and if you do, be sure you set down 
how Destiny so often blue-pencils our lives in the 
wrong places. We will read your book down here, 
all of us, just to see if you have been true to us 
instead of lajnng up for yourself royalties on 
earth." 

**And where do you bury a postman who dies 
with his mail-bags t" I further pursued. 

''Holy Patriarch!" he ejaculated. "You don't 
think' he is carried back to Athabasca Landing? 
His body is cached in a tree and the police are 
notified. AMien they give their permission, and 
when the ground is thawed out in the spring, we 
bury him just where he died. It may, however, 
interest you to know that the letters 'O.H.M.S.' 
are cut on his tombstone." 

" 'O.H.M.S.' " I repeated. "Don't you mean 
'I.H.S.,' lesous Hominum Salvator, the same as 
we write over our altars and on our baptismal 
fonts?" 



142 SEEDS OP PINE 

**No!'* he replied, *'I mean 'O.H.M.S.'; the 
same as they stamp on government letters which 
are franked ^On His Majesty's Service.' You see 
the work of delivering the mails down this way, 
while extremely arduous, must never for a mo- 
ment be considered as menial. The carrier is a 
servant to none save His Imperial Majesty, 
George the Fifth, of England." 

They are all gamblers, these Northmen: they 
play for love, for money or for the mere pleasure 
of the play, and Boys of our Heart, like the mail- 
couriers and the striplings of the Mounted Police, 
gamble with the elements for life itself. 

'*Ali, well!" remarked my host, as he put away 
his pipe for the night, ''these fellows know the 
rules and dangers of the game when they ' sit in, ' 
and while twenty-six of the cards are black, it is 
just as well to bear in mind that there are an equal 
number of reds." 

On my return to the ship at midnight, I found 
that some one had seized and was occupying my 
state-room on the nine-tenths of the law idea. She 
seemed to be a woman turbulent in spirit, and, 
accordingly I left her in possession: also, I left 
her door open to the mosquitoes, who are evil 
whelps and more tutored in crime than you could 
believe. 

The purser, a very agreeable and well-behaved 
man, gave up his office to me, but I did not rest 
well, in that a whirligig of jubilant mosquitoes was 
occupying it conjunctively. Being full-blooded 
and sometimes inclined to ))e rather mean, I 



AT THE PARTING OF THE RIVERS 143 

endeavoured to accept this retributory plague as" 
a chastening wliich might prove beneficial to both 
body and soul. 

In the morning all the reckonings of the trip 
were settled at a desk beside my bunk, the men 
moving around with the prehensile tread of the 
villain who goes round a corner in the moving- 
picture films. I pretended they had not awakened 
me, and breathed with much regularity, but all the 
while I was stealthily peeping. They would not 
have understood if I had made objections to 
their entering, for here, at the edge of things, all 
men are gentlemen, or are supposed to be. Con- 
ventionality would be actual boorishness, and a 
woman must try and earn for herself the title of a 
good scout, it being the highest encomium the 
North can pass upon her. 

Before leaving the ship for the portage, we 
backed into the Athabasca, and, after travelling 
two or three miles, unloaded a vast deal of freight 
at a little tent town on the bank. Here and there, 
through this country, you come upon these white 
encampments, which mean that the iron furrows 
of the railway are steadily pushing the frontier 
farther and farther north. This was the first load 
of freight to be brought do^\^l the Athabasca for 
the building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. 
It was only rough hardware truck, but, withal, 
amiable to my eyes, standing, as it did, for the end 
of a long rubber between fur and wheat. You 
would like the looks of the young engineers who 
took charge of the stuff. They were no muffish 



144 SEEDS OF PINE 

sick-a-bed fellows-, but brown with wind and sun, 
hardy-moulded and masterful. One of them has 
written something about life on the right-of-way, 
which he intends sending me to touch up a bit for 
a paper. It augurs well for a country when its 
workers love it and want to write about it. 

And even so, My Canada, should I forget thee, 
may my pen fingers become sapless and like to 
poplar twdgs that are blasted by fire. And may it 
happen in like manner to any of thy breed who are 
drawn away from love of thee. 



CHAPTER XIII. 



ON THE PORTAGE 



We sing the open road, good friends, 
But here's a health to you. 

William Grutiti 



AS one watches the efforts of the wagoners 
to store away the valises and rolls of blan- 
kets without ejecting the passengers, one 
remembers that Caesar's word for baggage was 
impedimenta. But Prosper, our wagoner, is the 
best packer on the trail, also he can sing, "I've 
got rings on my fingers." 

**It is strange there are so many dingy half- 
breeds in the world," says the person by my side 
who objects to her blankets being tied on behind. 
''To my thinking there is no colour to compare 
with white. *Ishmaels,' I call these breeds." 

Prosper 's bearing under her choleric criticism 
is so superbly apathetic that I like him swiftly 
and completely. Any one can see that he is a man 
of substantial qualities and not to be excited by 
fidgety women. 

It is fourteen rough miles from Mirror Landing 
to Soto Landing, along a black trail that lifts and 
dips through the tall ranks of the poplars and 

145 



146 SEEDS OF PINE 

piues. The scenery offers no great varieties ex- 
cept those of light and shade, vista and perspec- 
tive. 

Whenever we pass through a thick-knit stand 
of pines, the people in the wagons are instinctively 
reticent and subdued, but, upon emerging into 
open space where there are only birches to throw 
a shimmering wayward shadow, 'tis observable 
that e^ery one laughs or sings. It was La Mar- 
seillaise the eight Oblate Brothers sang, and once 
they broke into a French ballad the theme of 
which was — 

"Mary, I love you, 
Will you marry me?" 

The team on our wagon is a badly mated one. 
The off beast trots like a sheep and has a way of 
hanging her head as if some one had told her a 
story too shocking to contemplate : while Lisette, 
the nigh mare, although strong as a steel cable, 
picks objections to every foot of the way either 
with a kick or and idotic sidelong prance. Now 
and then Prosper, w^ho knows the whole truth 
about Lisette, and who looks more religious than 
he really is, advises her as to her forbears and 
predicts as to her posterity, but, like Job's wild 
ass, this whimsical-minded trailer ''scorneth the 
multitude of the city and regardeth not the crying 
of the driver." 

''She's a female voter, she is," says an English- 
man, who has been back home on a visit, "and 
it's a tidy bit of walloping she needs." 



ON THE Poivi Ai.H 147 

The London suffragettes would have been 
pleased with our opinion of their countryman and 
that we were able to express it in the exact words. 
After a full and unreserved apology from the 
friulitened traveller, we, in turn, retracted the 
"mdecorous charge that he was a ridiculous pin- 
liead, and a man of low understanding, whereupon 
peace once more reigned in our wagon. It is 
astonishing what pernicious consequences may 
follow from the kicking of a wayward-minded 
mare on the trail. Most of the frontier tragedies 
are attributable to this very thing. 

Anderson *s stopping-place which we are pass- 
ing used to be the only house between Grouard 
and Athabasca Landing, and accordingly is a 
notable landmark. Anderson is still unmarried, 
rt is forced upon the notice of a traveller in these 
Xorth- Western Provinces that every bachelor has 
little spruce-trees around his house. The bachelor 
thinks we don't suspect his reason, but we know 
it is because he hopes, some day, they may come 
in handy for Christmas-trees. 

We stay for a little while at the house of Ernst 
and Minna, who came from Europe more than six 
years ago. It is a sheer joy to know Minna, w^ho 
is a little round-bodied woman, firm-fleshed and 
wholesome as an autumn apple. She has been at 
Athabasca Landing once. She hears there are 
trains there now. It may be that Madam saw 
them. 

Minna had planned a trip to the Landing this 
summer but it happened she did not go after all. 



148 SEEDS OF PINE 

Ah, well ! there is the money saved and she is sure 
to see the Landing again. Minna was going to 
the hospital of the good sisters to lie in with her 
fifth baby and Ernst was to stay here with the 
children. You may believe it too, that Ernst is 
no butter-fingers with children and a most cunning 
baker of bread. Minna says that down this way 
every man can bake bread — and does bake bread. 

The little house by the trail would, of course, 
miss its mother for a while, but the garden seeds 
were in; the children's clothes were mended to 
the last stitch, and a parcel of baby's fixings was 
on its way to her from Edmonton. Now it hap- 
pened there was too much important freight from 
the boat to carry this parcel and so it was loft 
behind till the next trip. It was nearly too late 
and Minna was greatly perplexed, for surely she 
was going to see the Landing and how could she 
go without the baby's clothing. 

But, at last, the parcel came, and the wagoner 
Vho delivered it was to call the next day on his 
return trip and take Minna with him over the 
portage to the boat. He came, and with him were 
several passengers. It was unfortunate there was 
no woman among them, for Minna had no neigh- 
bours; Ernst had gone down the trail, and her 
hour was upon her. 

''Mother, she iss sick," explained her little son, 
''and no one iss in to come. I am by the door to 
stand till Father he comes back." It was nearly 
an hour before the distressful travellers were able 
to find Ernst, but no man ventured past the young 
sentinel. 



ON THE PORTAGE 149 

The little daughter was half-an-hour old when 
Ernst was deposited on his door-step, but Minna 
had oared for the eliild herself. It was too bad 
the mother had fallen from the loft and hurt her- 
self, for now, she cannot go to the hospital and she 
wanted to see the Landing. Ah, well ! there is the 
money saved and that is something. It takes 
much money for five children. 

''How old is the baby girl?" I ask, as I take 
my turn in kissing the mite's forehead, and in 
wishing that she may be a good little scout like 
Minna. 

"She was one week last Tuesday. Xo! two 

weeks last Tuesday. All ! Madam, I cannot surely 

say. Ernst I will ask him how old is the baby." 
• • • • • 

Once on the journey we passed a speckled owl 
in a pine-tree, but she did not answer to our '*Oo- 
hoo!" neither did she so much as open an eye. 
She looks rich unto millions, and thoroughly proof 
against all appeals. She is what Cowper called 
the University of Oxford, ''a rich old vixen." I 
intend affecting this pose myself when I find the 
gold at the foot of the rainbow, in order that I 
may be extremely insolent to the bankers and to 
other offensive collectors. 

Prosper says he often shoots owls who lodge in 
the fir-trees, and tiiat he gets two dollars bounty 
from the government from each one. He does not 
know it is accounted a sin to him who kills a bird 
that has sheltered in a fir-tree, or an animal that 
has crouched thereunder, for this is the tree of the 



150 SEEDS OF PINE 

Christ-Child, and a House of Refuge in the forest 
to the denizens thereof. To those men or women 
who love the fir, its bitter taste on their tongues 
may be more holy than bread or wine, and may 
convey to them an inly grace. 

Also it is wrong to cast away the Christmas- 
tree, or the ropes of greenery which have been 
used for the celebration of Christma^tide. These 
should be burned upon the hearth as a sweet 
savour, and the fire-master should say, ' ' Peace be 
to this household and to all the household of Can- 
ada." 

The resin of conifers is a more agreea,ble and a 
more seemly offering to Our Lady of the Snow 
than aloes, or myrrh or spices, so that it behoves 
us, her children, to look anew to our censing pots. 

Since leaving Athabasca Landing, we have 
passed through enough uncultivated land to solve 
all the problems of Great Britain which arise out 
of unemployed workmen, and out of slum condi- 
tions with their attendant evils. 

As its stupendous acreage, enormous fertility, 
and its lifeless voids are daily thrust upon me, I 
am filled with amazement. Surely no land was 
ever so little appreciated by its owners. If there 
were an ocean between it and our more populous 
provinces to the south,' one might the better un- 
derstand the reasons. This waste heritage can 
only be accounted for on the grounds of a lack of 
interest, and because people are indolent and like 
to live softly. Only two members of the Alberta 
legislature have ever visited this country, and 



ON THE PORTAGE 151 

these two belong here. It does not need a new 
Moses to stand and say, "This is a goodly land"; 
it needs a new and more drastic Joshua, to take 
them by the ear and lead them in. The time is 
coming when the crops from this land will, each 
year, outstrip in value all the gold money in the 
world, and it will not be so long either. I intend 
to buy as much of it myself as I can afford, and if 
I can persuade the Christians of my own town to 
lend me the money instead of building churches, I 
shall buy more than I can afford. I have read 
much about this country, but I find it better to 
come here and tread out the grapes for myself. 

While I have been taking stock mentally of 
these things, we have arrived at Soto Landing, 
on the Lesser Slave River, and already the 
Indian women have come out of their tents to 
watch our movements. These people are called 
squatters hereabout, but I prefer to call them 
nesters. They sow not, neither do they gather in- 
to barns. They don't care to do either. 

They view us women with a quiet appraising 
look, but not understanding ''their dark, am- 
bigious, fantasticall, propheticall, gibrish," I 
cannot learn their conclusions. The Factor's 
widow, who is still with us, heard one of the 
Indian men describe her hat as a pot, whereupon 
she remarked to him in excellent Cree that her pot 
lacked a handle. If I were to set down how the 
other Indians enjoyed this stabbing surprise, and 
how they were contorted with laughter by reason 
of their fellow's confusion, you would hardly be- 
lieve me, so I shall not set it do-svn. 



152 SEEDS OF PINE 

One Indian woman wears a dross that has in it 
the many shocking colours of a Berlin-wool mat. 
Sh(i is pleased when we stroke it with our hands, 
and I can see she is as proud of it as I am of my 
dimity bed-gowTi with the pink rosebuds on it. 

Dinner is ready on the boat and our appetites 
are too sharp-set to permit of delay. We eat 
and eat just as if eating were our chief and ever- 
lasting happiness, and as if life itself lay in a 
fleshpot. 

This is a larger and better equipped boat than 
those on the Athabasca because it is meant for the 
lake traffic. We do not leave Soto Landing till 
three hours past the scheduled time, for Mr. J. K. 
Cornwall, the Member of Parliament for the 
Peace River Constituency, affectionately knowm 
hereabouts as "Jim," has chosen to make the 
portage afoot. 

This country, from Atha'basca Landing to the 
Peace River, is commonly described as "Jim's 
Country," and if you travel it over you will under- 
stand the reason. 

AVho supports the stopping-places on the river? 
Jim's freighters. 

Who cuts the wood on the bank I Jim's Indians. 

AMio hauls the passengers, the freight, and the 
mail-bags over the portage? Jim's wagoners. 

Who owns the ships on the Athabasca and the 
Slave? AVhy, Jim himself. 

How Jim can look his pay-slieet in the eye every 
fortnight and keep laughing, is, to my thinking, 
the miracle of the North. But then it must be 



ON THE PORTAGE 153 

borne in mind that I have never seen Jim's ledger- 
book, and, as yet, no one else has except his 
aceomitants and bankers. 

.The dream of Jim's life has been to lay bare the 
wealth of the North, for the good of the North, 
and every day he is making his dream come true. 

But I was telling you about Soto Landing. The 
freight shed here is in charge of a bachelor whose 
wardrobe is drying audaciously on the trees. He 
says he ties his clothes together with a rope and 
lets the current of the river wash them, but I think 
tliis statement is what Montaigne would describe 
as "A shameless and solemne lie." 

He asks me how long I have been out from 
Ireland and I tell him three years. *'What was 
the charge ? " he pursues. 

"Stealing the crown jewls," I reply. 

"Oh!" says he, "it's the same time since I 
left the sod. It was for killing a landlord." 

Now as this man came from New Brunswick, 
and as I came from Ontario, it may readily be 
seen that we have both become Albertans. 

"Are you not ashamed to deceive a woman like 
me, and an ignoramus who is travelling north to 
gain instruction?" I ask of him. 

"Woman! You're no woman. I mean you're 
no Ignoramus — and, although you question us, 
I perceive you know more about the north than all 
of us. But seeing you wish to be further instruct- 
ed, come with me to the freight shed that I may 
show you how the wholesale houses pack their 
goods. Believe me. Lady, I cut to the root of the 



154 SEEDS OP PINE 

matter when I say the only downright packers in 
this north country are the Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany. You can i)lainly see this for yourself, and 
I hope you will inform the Board of Trade about 
it when you go home. Here, you will observe a 
set of scales, but the weights were insecurely at- 
tached and have been lost. 

''This heap of refuse is the remains of a ship- 
ment of crockery that was crated too lightly. 
Errant improvidence, I call it. Lady, the pitcher 
is no longer broken at the fountain : it is our habit 
here to break it on the portage. It is no exaggera- 
tion when I say I am worked like a transcontinent- 
al railway system, hammering up boxes or shovel- 
ling out damaged merchandise. 

"Cast your eye up at these chairs in the rafters, 
six dozen of them by actual count, sent north by 
a furniture house last year but delivery was re- 
fused by the purchaser." 

"They look like good chairs," say I, "what is 
the matter with them!" 

"Matter enough," he continues, "shipped as 
'knocked-dowTi' furniture, four legs to each chair, 
all of them hind legs. This was a matter of con- 
siderable vexation to the purchaser, who paid cash 
for the goods and for their transportation." 

"But the furniture house will send the front 
legs," I argue. 

"Might as well try to get blood out of sawdust," 
says he. Now, personally, I think this simile is 
an inconclusive one, for I have known timbermen 
to sweat great drops of blood into sawdust, and 



ON THE PORTAGE 155 

there is no reason why those drops could not be 
extracted. 

This freight master is a conipellinji? man, and lie 
says the shippers are expert sinners and a parcel 
of ignorant and makeshift people. It may be he 
is right: it is not for me to gainsay him, or to 
further discompose his temper, when all the 
evidence is so plainly visible. 

After this discussion, I play with the other 
children who tumble about on the hillside. They 
all talk Cree, and some of them who have been to 
school talk French and English. 

One little girl, with the fine insouciance of eight 
years, says there is no use praying Le Bon Dieu, 
for He doesn't understand Cree very well. She 
has repeated her prayer over and over but she has 
never had a soft-faced doll yet. 

Solemn little mother ! Her prayer, at any rate, 
is reasonably specific, and I can see how one of 
these days it is going to be answered. 

It is good to rest in the shade of the trees while 
these copper-coloured babies jabber about me in 
soft Cree, and finger my hair and clothes. Truly, 
I am very fortunate and have much fulness of 
pleasure. I might be that same good girl whom 
an English pla>n;^^right describes as having never 
compromised herself, and yet the wickedest child 
who ever was slapped could hardly have had a 
better time. 



CHAPTER XIV . 

ON THE LESSER SLA^^ RIVER 

Gitchie Manito, the Mighty, 

Mitchie Manito, the bad; 
In the l)reast of every Redman, 
In the dust of every dead man, 

There's a tiny heap t)f Gitchie — 

And a mighty mound of Mitchie — 
There's the good and there's the bad. 

Cy Wasuak. 

FROM Soto Landing, the Lesser Slave River 
bends its course to the north and west till 
it empties into Lesser Slave Lake at Saw- 
ridge. It is a small river, being about a hundred 
and fifty feet wide and about thirty deep. Owing 
to its sharp curving banks much care is required 
in its navigation. Its banks are heavily wooded 
and as we pass down its quiet reaches we seem to 
have sailed into a dreamful world, where just to 
breathe is a delight. I account it sinful to talk in 
those surroundings, but one may not hope to enjoy 
solitude for any considerable time in a country 
where women-travellers are sufficiently rare to 
arouse a raging curiosity in the breast of every 
male entity who comes within reach of her. People 
like these northmen, who live out of doors most of 
the year, are not easily bored. They are interested 
in things ; they are perennially young, and this, I 
take it, is the secret of Pan. 

156 



ON THE LESSER SLAVE RIVER 157 

Xow, the trouble about having a man near is 
that he is always picking up your things and so 
making you nervous. I prefer to wait till ready 
to move before regaining my handkerchief, my 
back-comb, my hand satchel and my scarf. This 
is why I pretend not to notice the iron-built person 
with strong white teeth who has seated himself 
nearby and who is watching a chance to restore 
something. He is what the Irish call "bold-like." 
T know what he is thinking about and understand 
his motive perfectly. He wants to know if I have 
ever been north before. He is the thirteenth man 
so to wonder. I am, however, severely purposed 
not to tell him. 

There is a belief, common in the cities, that no 
questions are asked in the bush ; that people may 
travel for days together without divulging ends. 
Here is a good place to spend an arrow on this 
widely droll deception. An uninquisitive man is 
as hard to find here as ah unsociable cockerel. 
Goodness Divine! the chief use of a stranger in 
the woods is to keep the denizens of it from dying 
from emiui and lack of news. They would con- 
sider it the essence of uncordiality not to show 
an interest in the affairs of a stranger, especially 
as tlie stranger might possibly have succeeded in 
smuggling a flash or two past the police on the 
prohibition line. 

This bush-ranger catches me off my guard when 
a bulldog fly takes a piece out of my ear. It is 
his opportunity to produce a vial of collodion for 
the wound. As he pulls out the cork and finds a 



158 SEEDS OF PINE 

match to dip in tlie mixture, he tells me that the 
bulldog fly is no sweet angel and equal to ten 
thousand times its weight in prize-fighters — a 
statement which I do not think it fit to disbelieve. 
The collodion having eased the hurt this impudent 
gentleman draws up his chair and talks with an 
immense volubility concerning the species, genera, 
and habits of these flies till one might take him 
for a professor of entomology. 

The long winter nights in this province enable 
the denizens of it to become well posted in any 
subject which they may elect to pursue. This 
was how the late Bishop Bompas, who lived here 
for over half a century, became the first authority 
in the world on Syriac, so that the savants of 
Europe were wont to refer their mooted points 
to this lonely old prelate for decision, waiting a 
year, or often longer, for the answer which was 
carried by Indians for hundreds of miles down the 
out trail to Edmonton. My new friend declares 
that, like Montaigne, the bulldog fly has only one 
virtue and that this one got in by stealth. 

"Yes?" say I, with a rising reflection which 
delicately hints at an answer. 

He does not seem to hear me, this cold-chilled, 
care-hardened northener, and goes on stufling his 
pipe with cut-plug and searching through pocket 
after pocket for a match as if my remark were of 
no concernment. He is trying to pretend he has 
known me for a long time, and that I was the one 
who took the initiative in this acquaintanceship. 
This is why I became dumb, and why he repeats 



ox THE LESSER SLAVE RIVER 159 

his statement. Still I am wordless, whereupon he 
vouchsafes, with an exasperating drawl, that the 
fly's one virtue lies in the fact that it prefers 
picturesque food which is very eatable. 

Our parliament should legislate against the 
cunning arts of these designing northerners, 
against which no to\sTi-bred woman may hope to 
set up an adequate defence, however perfect may 
be her poise, or fertile and calculating her brain. 

This person tells me that all a man needs to 
succeed in the North-West Provinces is to keep 
his head hard and his pores open — a recipe, no 
doubt, equally applicable in the more southerly 
regions, and one which I am supposed to deduct 
he, himself, has proven with very happy success. 

He hos been south gettmg people to come to 
the Peace River Country, the new and unpossessed 
empire where there are twenty-two hours of day- 
light and which will, one day, be belted by a strii'g 
of cities and girdironed by a score of railways. It 
is good to listen to this fellow talk, for, in his 
.alculations lineal or intellectual, he can measure 
nothing less than a mile. He is typical of the 
great and splendid body of Canadian and English 
})ioneer8 who have absolutely no truck with 
pessimism. These men and women are opening 
up this empire and they are under no misappre- 
hensions concerning it. They are people with a 
vision, which vision they are A^illing to endorse 
with the best years of their lives. 

Kitemaki^, the poor one, who intends writing 
the book about the white folk, has drawn near to 



160 SEEDS OF PINE 

us and is listening to our talk. We invite her to 
join us and, after awhile, she tells us curious 
legends of tlie north in which fear does many 
times more prevail than love; these, and old 
superstitions which catch your fancy sharply and 
fresh the dusty dryness of your spirit. 

Although they are in no great credit with 
historians, it is an odd idea of mine that the only 
true history of a country is to be found in its fairy 
tales. These seem to be the crystallization of the 
country's psychology. On the trail, on the river, 
in the woods, you may glean from the Redmen 
and their mate-women tales that are well veined 
with the fme gold of poetry, but which, as a gen- 
eral thing, are inconclusive and do not serve 
aright the ends of justice. As you search into the 
untaught minds of these Indian folk and pull on 
their mental muscle, you must preforce recall the 
amazing sensation of the gentleman who took 
the hand of a little ragged girl in his and felt that 
she wanted a thumb. 

*0r again, in your Anglo-Saxon superiority you 
may feel like that Merodach, the King of Uruk, 
of whom a philosopher tells us. This Merodach 
wished to make his enemies his footstool, so as 
he sat at meat, he kept a hundred kings beneath 
his table with their thumbs cut off that they might 
be living witnesses to his power and leniency. 

And when Merodach observed how painfully 
the kings fed themselves with the crumbs that fell 
to them, he praised God for having given thumbs 
to man. "It is by the absence of thumbs," he 



0\ THE LESSER SLAVE RIVER 161 

said» **tliat we are enabled to discern their use." 
Listen now to this tale of the North : Once there 
was a smiling woman in this land and wherever 
she went she brought warmth with her and light, 
so that even the ice melted in the rivers. Her 
eyes were blue like the flowers and her skin was 
white like the milk of a young mother. As she 
passed through the land the fish swam out of 
their eaves, the birds rested on their nests, and 
even the dead women who were in the clay stirred 
themselves when she passed over, for once they 
had known lovers and liad carried men children. 
She was vastly kind, this woman, and was known 
even to the dear God and the Holy Virgin in the 
country of the beautiful heaven. 

Now, there was also in this river land an evil 
man of impetuous appetite w^ho was part bear, 
and had seven tongues, and his arms had claws 
instead of hands. And it befell tliat when he 
saw the woman and heard her voice that was 
sweet like the singing voice of an arrow when it 
leaves the bow, he yearned to her with a vehement 
love and wooed her with cunning words and ^\'itll 
drum songs that she might come to him and be 
his mate-woman. 

*'So strong am I," he said, "that my blow can 
break any skull. My skin is flushed, and my fiesh 
is warm with thoughts of you. My bed is of soft 
skins and I will feed you with yellow marrow from 
white bones. I am Mistikivan, the Head, and I 
have strength and skill to feed the mouth of my 
woman. I am Askinekew, the Young Man." 



162 SEEDS OF PINE 

But the woman flouted him, for he was hateful 
with his hands of hair and his seven tongues; 
besides she knew, this woman, that there were 
matters of scandal against him and that the 
people of the Crees said iveyesekao, "He is a 
flesh-eater," and hid themselves in the trees as 
he passed by. 

And because she thus flouted him, the dew stood 
out on his face like the juice on the fir-tree, for he 
loved her most exceedingly. 

But as he drew near and grasped her in his 
strong anns that could not be unloosed, the wo- 
man's heart became weak as the poplar smoke 
when it turns into air. 

And thus he holds her for nine months, this 
Askinekeiv, the Young Man who is strong and very 
mischievous, till she bears him a son, when it 
happens that for three months he falls asleep so 
that the woman goes free to bring heat and light 
to the river-land and meat and fish to the kettles. 

Thus does Kitemakis, 'Hhe poor one," tell me 
the story of winter and summer and of the birth 
of the year. 

And Kitemakis, who has '*the young lamb's 
heart among the fuU-groum flocks," advises me to 
hold no converse with left-handed people, for it is 
well known in these parts that such have com- 
munion with the devils. 

I am bewared too, that if I have a bad dream, 
that is to say, if I deam of small-pox, or of wliite 
people, I must cut a lock from over my ear and 
burn it in the fire. 



ON THE Lh."5>EK .>i.A\ L iil\ ER 163 

Also, Madam is instructed to throw away the 
wishbone of any bird she may eat in order that it 
may grow again and be food for other folk. 

And Kitemakis tells me further that when 
Amislc, the beaver, dies his soul lives on. In the 
happy hunting grounds the beaver was a carpenter 
who, through some distemper of the mind, kept 
working while the moose were on the runway so 
that he frightened them away. This caused the 
chief hunter to become very angry and he said to 
the beaver, **Thou shalt built always, and men 
shall break doMTi thy work and take thy pelt for 
covering. Also, thou shalt eat wood forever." 

T cannot hear any more of these stories for my 
attention is dra\\'n to a man who has come close 
to the ship in a small row-boat. The engine has 
stopped and a permit is handed to him over the 
side of the vessel. The man looks like a Scotch- 
man, seems like an Irishman, Imt in reality is a 
Gennan, an erstwhile soldier, who makes his liveli- 
hood in curing and smoking fish. He is indulging 
in a surly and wrong-headed paroxysm because 
Elise, his wife, is not on the boat. Elise went to 
the city to have her teeth filled and still lingers in 
the south. A certain rude fellow with a brass- 
throated laugh is suggesting of the soldier-fisher- 
man that Elise may be appreciative of the change 
of society and that he is foolish to look for her 
under two months. '-'Better enjoy your permit be- 
fore Elise gets home; that's my advice," enjoins 
the tormentor. 

"About the viskey, not one tam I care," replies 
the irascible husband, "it's ma vife I vant. Ma 



161 SEEDS OP PINE 

vife she in P^dmonton stays" — a praiseworthy 
choice on his part which, to our way of thinking", 
nullifies the oft-urged but yet unproven claim that 
''A woman's only a woman, but a good cigar's a 
smoke." 

As the man pushes off, Baldy, a pucker-faced 
fellow whose real name is Nathaniel, assures me 
that this German is considered ''sorta queer" 
hereabouts, and that it is nothing short of flat 
irreverence for a man to speak so lightly about his 
permit in a land of such inordinate thirsts. 

This matter of leaving home for the treatment 
of sore molars has suddenly become an important 
one in the north. Hitherto, the traders of the 
Hudson's Bay Company and the missionaries did 
not need to go to the city on business, or to see 
their mother-in-law ; their errand was teeth. But 
this summer, the Company seems to have waxed 
over-wise, for the Inspector of Posts is bringing a 
dentist. It was only yesterday that a woman who 
women alike consider this to be an ill courtesy and 
hold to the hope that the dentist may be drowned 
at Athabasca Landing. The woman who tells me 
of it believes when on gives nine-tenths of her 
time to the Company, the church, and the house- 
hold it is not wicked to take one-tenth for herself. 
Indeed, there are times when she honestly desires 
to be wicked and to take several-tenths for her- 
self. The whole arrangement she stigmatizes as a 
graceless one and a blot on the Company's 
escutcheon. 

Still, there are drawbacks in being so far from a 
dentist. It was only yesterday that a woman who 



ON THE LESSER SLAVE RIVER 165 

was using the river as her wash-pot, dropped her 
new set of teeth overboard. She had not been out 
for five years and made tlie trip with her husband 
and her two youngest sons at the cost of much time 
and money. However amusing the incident might 
be to thoughtless onlookers, at the bottom it was 
almost tragic, and she, at least, is hoping that the 
IL B. Co. dentist will meet no dire or untimely 
fate before reaching Grouard. This is a health- 
ful-bodied, healthful-minded woman Avith a 
temperament that adjusts itself to life. She is 
proud of the fact that she is educating her five 
sons at home ; that she cooks for the ten men en- 
gaged in her husband's saw-mill, and that she 
has twelve hundred cabbages in her garden. I am 
glad she wears a hoop of diamonds on her finger 
and that her fur wrap would cost a fortune in 
Paris. It means that her husband is no stingy, 
unappreciative curmudgeon and that all is well 
with her. 

Sawridge is at the mouth of the Lesser Slave 
River where it enters into the lake of the same 
name. At present, it consists of a Hudson's Bay 
Company post and a telegraph office. Some day, 
by reason of its location, it \s'ill be a good-sized 
town. Further on are the Swan Hills and the 
Swan River. This is the river referred to by 
Lever in Charles 'Malley. The young gentleman 
whose affairs were in an ill posture had his choice, 
you may remember, between going to "Hell or 
Swan River." This was a libel on the place and 
an impudent falsity, for, if you omit the mos- 



166 SEEDS OF PINE 

qui toes with their unhandsome manners, one 
miglit call it the trail to Paradise. Besides, if life 
cut too hard the young gentleman might have 
taken his last trail here. It would not have been a 
bad death either — a wide sky, a wide sea, and a 
sudden dip into immortality — or oblivion. 

On the lower deck, the Indians who travel to 
Grouard for tlie Golden Jubilee of the great 
Bishop Grouard are whiling away the time by 
playing poker. The cards which they use weigh 
twice as much as when purchased, but why worry 
in a land where microbes are unheard of and so 
have no pernicious consequence. These Indians 
have the air of unambitious men; they have not 
cared to come into the big Canadian job. They 
appear to do little else than eat, sleep, and gamble. 
But, god of civilization, what else is there to do 
except make love, and men cannot make love to 
preposterous women who w^ork always. These 
fellows have, however, one saving quality, having 
never formed themselves into unions. Now that 
even the farmers have gone over to the enemy, the 
Kedmen would appear to be our last hope. 

A doctor on the boat who knows all about the 
Indians, tells me of their misfortunes, pecca- 
dilloes, their thin transitory pleasures and their 
love and practise of idleness. But this is not 
strange, for gossip is so common in the north that 
every one knows ''the carryings-on" of every one 
else from the Arctic circle clear up to the Land- 
ing. Indeed, I have heard toll that these north- 



ON THE LESSER SLAVE RIVER 167 

erners know what you are up to bof'^'f' von liave 
done it. 

The Indians, the doctor would have me notice, 
are beginning to chew gum and hence their teeth 
and gums are deteriorating. 

The mildewed fellow who is dealing the cards 
is pestiferous with disease. His birth was a 
biological tragedy. The doctor thinks he could 
best serve his tribe by dying without delay. 

Andre, the man who has just won the jackpot, 
is not the prototype of the expression "Honest 
Indian." He is a bad Indian, a most bad Indian. 

• ' 1 lis profession ? " I ask. 

"Oh, Andre is my camp-cook," is the reply, 
**iuid when he washes himself he uses quite a 
cupful of water." By way of amends, Andre 
affects a stupendous scarf-pin, a watch-chain, and 
two rings. Ah well ! to quote Mr. Artemus Ward, 
"The best of us has our weaknesses, and if a 
man has jewelry let him show it" Besides, it is 
entirely thinkable that even a man like Andre 
might have to dress for those whose discernment 
goes no deeper than clothes and ornamentation. 

The difference between an Indian and a half- 
breed lies in the fact that the Indian is in treaty 
with the government and lives on a reservation. 
The breed is free to come and go, but his blood is 
just as pure as the Indian's so far as its redness 
is concerned. 

In most cases, the children look to their mother 
as the head of the family. The doctor says this is 
quite fitting. Take the case of Marie there — Yes! 



168 SEEDS OF PINE 

the little girl with the precise plaits — she is the 
daughter of old Henrietta and a Mounted Police- 
man. Jacqueline, her sister who in-toes so queer- 
ly, is the result of old Henrietta's fancy for a fur 
trader. It can be readily seen how several mas- 
culine heads to the family would complicate mat- 
ters and that it is wholly desirable the girls should 
look to their mother for their lineage. In the 
north, as yet, it has not been necessary to cover 
vices with cloaks. 

The Indian women have fallen on better days 
since the government passed a law prohibiting 
the Indian from selling his cattle Avithout a permit 
from the agency, and making it illegal for a white 
mail to purchase. Previously, the Indian gambled 
away his animals, leaving his squaw and papooses 
to suffer from starvation. 

"The old eflfigy" asleep in the sun is, I am 
informed, a chief of distinction. Like Froissart's 
Knights, the hereditary chieftain may be blind, 
crippled and infirm. His body fordone with age 
is by them considered to be full of the spirit of 
wisdom. He is the giver of law and keeper of 
traditions. The Indians have no dead-line in their 
tribal codes, it being held in suspension north of 
55° with the league rules and the game laws, a 
fact which leads to the deduction that what the 
world has gained by civilization is fairly balanced 
by what it has lost. 

AVhile we have been getting acquainted with 
the Indians, our ship has carried us into the finest 
duck grounds in the world, the teal and mallard 



ox THE LESSER SLAVE RIVER 169 

rising from the rice beds in almost incredible 
numbers. It seems impossible that their numbers 
should ever be noticeably depleted, nor are they 
likely to be, until Grouard, which we have now 
reached, has become the splendid metropolis its 
people have planned and which, no doubt, their 
efforts will one day materialize. 

"We believe,** says my medical friend, *'that 
any one who says Grouard isn't going to be a 
large city hasn't got things properly sized-up. I 
hope you won't go south again, my interesting 
child," he further continues; '*it would seem like 
being cut off in the flower of your days. \Miile 
sometimes shadowed here, the days are never 
dull, and if no one loves you in this burgh, believe 
me, it will be entirelv vour own fault." 



CHAPTER XV 

THE BISHOP OF THE ARCTIC. 



The trail hath no languorous longing; 

It leads to no Lotus land; 
On its way dead Hopes come thronging 

To take you by the hand; 
He who treads the trail undaunted, thereafter 
shall command. 

Kate Simpson Hayes. 



HALF a century ago Bishop Tache wrote a 
letter to France, in which he asked for 
some missionaries. In response to this 
appeal a certain young Grouard was sent to Fort 
Garry. When Bishop Tache looked over the 
slender stripling he said: "I asked for a man; 
they sent me a boy." But a year later he wrote 
again : * ' Please send me more boys. ' ' This was 
fifty years ago, and from tliat day to this the 
northern world has had but one opinion of 
Grouard — he makes good. He is a worker who 
sticks to his text. To-day, he is the head of the 
Catholic missions in the far north, and his diocese, 
until lately, included the very Yukon. 

He is seventy-seven years old (but we don't be- 
lieve it), with a leonine head, an unrazored face 
and a chest like a draught horse; an erect man 
who commands the instant attention of whatever 

170 



THE BISHOP OF THE ARCTIC 171 

company lie enters. Assuredly, he is the type of 
the sound mind in the sound body. It is not to be 
wondered that his attractive personality made him 
the cynosure of all eyes, and that his name was on 
every tongue when, several years ago, he went to 
England, there to attend a great conference of his 
Church. 

Bishop Grouard is alert in manner and has a 
kindly consideration for the poorest person. At- 
tend you, sirs and madams, to observe the Old 
World courtesy in its highest perfection, you must 
see it in the person of a French gentleman who 
holds a position of honor in the far, far north, 
it is an absolutely truthful courtesy, that has its 
roots in a big warm heart, so that it becomes 
the very bone and fibre of ihe man. By way 
of placating our more southerly dignitaries in 
what may seem an invidious comparison, it may 
be urged that Bishop Grouard ^s urbanity has 
never suffered such cross-currents as the muni- 
cipal watering cart, speed-limit fines, or the bill 
collectors, for, as yet, these well-conceived but ill- 
approved institutions are entirely unknowTi in the 
strangely blissful regions north of 55°. 

It is for the fiftieth anniversary of Biship 
Grouard 's consecration as a priest that all of us 
have gathered from Edmonton to Hudson's Hope 
to celebrate. We are assembled at Grouard on 
Lesser Slave Lake, the missionary post that was 
built here forty-nine years ago and named after 
the hero of this day. Our assembly is what smait 
society reporters would describe as "mixed," and 



172 SEEDS OF PINE 

the word would be correctly used; neverthe- 
less, the interest and colour of this occasion are in 
no inconsiderable measure due to this very fact. 
Besides, our is a goodly fellowship. 

Here we have Father Orcolan from Rome, who 
has written books on astronomy; Jake Gaudette, 
who was born in the Arctic Circle ; Indian Chiefs 
from near and far, with their wives and children ; 
big Jim Cornwall, the Cecil Rhodes of the north ; 
Bishop Joussard, the coadjutor, a short man with 
a hard-bitten sun-scorched face; factors and 
traders from outlying posts (believe me, right 
merry gentlemen) ; Judge Noel and his legal 
company, who have been dispensing justice in 
the regions beyond; lean-hipped, muscular trap- 
pers who toe-in from walking on the trails ; equal- 
ly lean-hipped river men who toe-out from keeping 
their balance on a log; children from the mission 
schools; black-robed nuns, doctors, government 
officials, and stalwart ranchers in homespun and 
leather — even bankers. This short gentleman, 
who looks as if he had just heard a good idea, is 
George Fraser, wit and journalist. The tall man 
in khaki with the positive shoulders is Fred 
Lawrence, pioneer and trader, likewise Fellow of 
the Royal Geographical Society; these and other 
interesting folk, the pictures of whom even my 
newly cut quill stops short at delineating. In 
truth, they are all here — the world and his wife — 
excepting only white girls. "It would seem too 
much like a special miracle," explains an Irish 
rancher, "to find half a dozen colleens set down 



THE BISHOP OF THE ARCTIC 173 

here in Grouard — sometliing like finding posies in 
the snow of December.** 

And the good Bishop Grouard is overcome be- 
cause he doesn't deserve the homage of these peo- 
ple. "Truly, madame, I did not think to receive 
all tliis honour. I am only an old voyageur, a poor 
old fellow who gets near the end of the river.*' 

**Does the paddle grow heavy, monseigneurf* 
I ask, **or is it that the journey is long?" 

"Non, non, madame; it is the thought of home 
at the end, and the loved ones." 

"But surely, monseigneur, the end is yet a long 
way off. Your eyes are not dimmed, neither is 
your natural force abated. And did we not this 
very day hear you speak to the tribes in six 
tongues?** 

"Six was it?" queries the bishop. "Six! Ah, 
well! they seem to come to me easily. I feel 
like the man who had only to open his mouth to 
have roast ducklings fly therein." 

Now this old northman has a close grip on 
twelve languages — it was Father Fahler who gave 
me the list — so that his modesty is truly discon- 
certing in an age wherein vanity seems to vary 
inversely with talent. He is a master in the use of 
Greek, Latin, French, English, Cree, Eskimo, 
Rabbitskin, Chippewaian, Beaver, Slavis, Dog 
Rib, and Loucheux. 

Bishop Grouard is an exegete and printer of no 
mean order, having translated the service book 
of the Catholic Church into seven languages and 
printed them himself. I do not know if the 
printing press ho bronulit into iho^t^ iiortlicni fast- 



174 SEEDS OF PINE 

nesses was the very first, but if not, it was assured- 
ly the second, for there is only one other. 

What these books liave meant to the tribes it is 
not for mere terrestrial folk to say, but if the 
Catholic doctrine of supererogatory works be a 
reasonable and true one, of a surety it is a splen- 
did balance that is laid up to the good bishop's 
account. In the more southerly provinces, where 
people like books, it is an easy matter for mes- 
sieurs the publishers to roll out scores of editions 
to the greedy public, but up here in the north pub- 
lishing a book becomes both a joke and a tragedy. 
In the first place, people do not care for books; 
in the second, the people do not know the alphabet. 

This was how Bishop Grouard came to build 
schools for the children. He had to teach the 
Indians to read. If you care to you may go to 
the school across the bishop's driveway and see 
the children. There are hundreds of them, or 
even more, but if you wait awhile we will go to- 
gether, for they are giving a play to-night, and 
at this moment are rehearsing their parts. It was 
Sister Egbert and Sister Ignatius who wrote the 
play; the theme, I have heard, is an incident in 
the life of the bishop. 

But it takes a long time to learn reading; 
besides, there are many distractions. And then 
the older folk whose eyes are smoke-dimmed by 
the tepee fires /may never hope to con the letters. 
It were ill reasoning to suppose so. For these 
people who are less literate the kind bishop paint- 
ed pictures of angels on the walls and on the 
ceiling of the church, and he made one of the 



THE BISHOP OF THE ARCTIC 175 

Crucifixion, over the altar, a glowing canvas 
instinct with living reality. The onlooker may 
truly say of this wliat Ruskin said of Raphael's 
"Transfiguration": '*It goes directly to the heart. 
It seems almost to call you by name. ' ' 

If you have lived long in the north you wdll 
have been wondering this while back how our 
workaday ecclesiastic got his materials into 
Grouard. How came his printing press, his type, 
his canvass, and his paints? Where did this 
man get the furniture for his schools, his hospi- 
tals, his church f Where did he get the boards for 
all these buildings? 

The boards, curious person, were cut at his own 
saw-mill, from which boards he fashioned the 
furniture ^^■ith his hands. **But how," you per- 
sist, ''did he bring the machinery for his saw- 
mill?" 

That was easy; he brought it here in a steam- 
boat. Any one could tell you that. 

"But where did he get the steamboat?" 

Oh ! he built the boat himself — the first steam- 
boat on the Lesser Slave Lake. In it, if he cared, 
he could carry his printing press and his canvases 
also. 

It will not be sui prit^mg li tiie historians of the 
future appraise Bishop Grouard 's combination of 
wisdom and action as something keenly akin to 
genius. Indeed, they are almost sure to. 

I cannot tell you what the anniversary services 
meant — it cannot be expected of any one who is 
versed in the Thirty-nine Articles of the English 
Church instead of the Rosaiy of the Blessed 



17G SEEDS OF PINE 

Virgin — but I came away from them with languor- 
ous impressions of golden robes, silver censers, 
and wavering lights, the odour of lilies and lilacs 
that wilted in the heat ; a suspended cross with an 
agonized Christ, wan and attenuated; of purple 
and scarlet cloths, of dark-haired young priests, 
husky and brown-skinned. There were other things 
like a shepherd's crook, and smoke of incense, 
but, most of all, there was a music that mothered 
you and stayed with you. In some way or other 
these old plaintive songs of Egypt seem fitted to 
the boreal regions, but why I cannot explain. 

In the city we must preforce set a stage for a 
drama, but here Nature has made a setting for 
us high on a hill overlooking a wide meadow 
that slopes to the bay. You have read something 
like this in classic myths, or maybe it was in 
Shakespeare, but it doesn't greatly matter; the 
play is the thing. For myself, I made believe 
that is the slope of Parnassus — for the Pythian 
hero was also a promoter of colonization, a 
founder of cities, a healer of the sick, an insti- 
tutor of games, a patron of arts. 

It is on this outdoor stage in its June-tide glory 
that we banquet; that we sing; that we play our 
parts. And it is here that Keenosew the Fish, 
chief of the Crees, with rapid rush of speech and 
voice of military sharpness, presents the homage 
of his tribe. In like manner do also the other 
representatives of other northerly tribes. Each 
chief wears a Treaty medal as a pledge from her 
Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria. 

It is here also that a fair-faced woman of our 



THE BISHOP OF THE ARCTIC 177 

company expresses tlie reverence of her sisters 
of the diocese for Monseigneur the Bishop, and, 
as a token of the same, presents to him a plate 
heaped hia^h >\4th coins of gold. 

And from this hill it is that we ride through the 
newly cut road, a thousand men and women of 
us in stately procession, but withal gaily capari- 
soned. Observe, if you will, our ribbons and 
fringes of gold; the little flags in our bridles; 
our l\Tix-skin saddle clothes, and the wreaths of 
purple vetch that hang from the pommels. Look 
well at our black soutanes, scarlet coats, grey 
homespuns, and yellow moose hides, for we are 
proud this day and wear our finest feathers. It is 
not well to be disturbed by the untamable naughti- 
ness 61 our horses, for the northern trailer, you 
must have heard, has no stomach for glitter of 
trappings, neither does he like the feel of neigh- 
bours. As we ramble down a white aisle of birch 
and poplar, the feet of our horses tread out for 
us the odour of leaf mould, which odour is the 
panacea of the world. 

We do not ride with any preconceived plans, 
or because of any propaganda. Neither are we 
knights who sally forth to right wrongs, albeit 
we have the truest knights of all with us— he who 
has snow on his head but fire in his heart ; he who 
has taught these tribes by doing 

This day we ride without review or forecast. 
We ride because we are glad. All we ask of life 
is room to rove adown this long white pathway 
in this young world. It is the best that life can 
give^room to ride. 



CHAPTER XVI 



NORTHERN VISTAS 



My name is O jib-Charlie, 
I like to sing and dance. 

Ct Warm aw. 



THE reader will excuse my chronicling the 
Jubilee before telling about Grouard. I 
have no excuse other than caprice, nor any 
precedent other than the fact that Chinese authors 
write their storie? backward. To resume then: 

You will remember the medical doctor on the 
boat was telling me how, one day, Grouard would 
be a large city. I wish to go further and declare 
it one now in spite of its small population, that 
is if you will accept with me the definition laid 
doAvn by an ancient Jewish writer who defined a 
large city as a place in w^hich "there are ten 
leisure men ; if less than so, lo ! it is a village." 

No one seems to be working unless it be the 
Indians who are training their horses for the 
sports that are to take place the day after to-mor- 
row, which sports wdll last for a week. This 
might be the leisurely land of the hyperboreans 
where there is everlasting spring and the in- 
habitants never toil or grow old — 

178 



NOUTIIEKX VLSTAS 179 

•* A land in the .sun-light deep 
Where polden gardens glow. 
Where the winds of the north, l)ecalined in sleep. 
Their conch-shells never blow." 

The firet men we meet are the civil-engineers. 
Nearly every one surveys here, and even the wild 
g:eose run lines along the sky. These engineers 
are pleasant-spoken men of proper spirit, who 
have been hammered into hardihood by work and 
weather. Nearly all of them invite you to eat 
in their camps: *'Come over to my stamping- 
grounds," says a youth who looks like a walking 
pine-tree. There is no doubt in the world he is 
lonely for his women-folk whom we happen to 
know **down home," for when we accept he 
smiles and says *' Heaven bless you endlessly!" 
He gave us a good supper, too, of hot and savoury 
food, and the coffee, though served in cups of un- 
believable thickness, was undeniably nectar. 

Afterwards, we walk into the village to get ac- 
quainted with the people thereof, and to secure 
lodgings. Over the doors of some of the shops 
there 'are signboards written in Cree, that is to 
say in syllabic symbols which look like the foot- 
prints of a huge bird. 

We are accosted by a gentleman of the Bible 
Society who wishes to sell us copies of the New 
Testament, which book, he says, is lightly 
esteemed in the North. He asks me if I belong to 
my Creator, but I dissemble in that I have never 
been able to say God created me without distinct 
reservations. There are cerrtain ugly and re- 
proachful traits in my make up which it seems 



180 SEEDS OF PINE 

sacrilegious to attribute to the Deity. This 
colporteur has a keen, clean mind — any one can 
see that — and I like him for his childlike straight- 
ness of soul. 

He is carrying copies of the gospels in the 
different Indian languages, but, so far, has sold 
but few. Doubtless the Indians think with that 
Mendizabel, the Prime Minister of Spain, who 
once said to George Borrow, '*My good sir, it is 
not Bibles we want but rather guns and gun- 
powder. ' ' 

The knowledge one picks up on a walk down, the 
street is varied in character and throws a light on 
village life several hundred miles from a railway. 

There are three churches here, also a pool-room 
and a moving picture show. It costs fifty cents to 
see the latter. 

AVhen a trapper is not working he is whittling. 
This is a bad year for the trappers : two summers 
came together. 

Eggs are a dollar a dozen and four loaves of 
bread may be had for the same price. Beef sells 
for twenty-five cents a pound and butter for sixty- 
five. 

There is an outcropping of coal on a mountain- 
side twelve miles away. A sample of the coal 
has been sent to Edmonton for analysis. 

The main cafe is built of logs and a notice in 
English advises the wayfarer to ''Stick to our 
pies. Never mind the looks of the house," it 
further enjoins. ''It's the oysters we eat, not 
the shell." 



NORTHERN VISTAS ,181 

The village boasts of a brass-band with twenty 
instruments. Although instructed by wire to 
meet us at the boat to-day, they failed to assemble, 
tlie members of the company liaving quarrelled 
over the selections to be played. 

Lots on main street sell as high as two thous- 
and dollars each. 

A gentleman in tweed suit with capacious 
pockets and tan leggings which he has brought 
with him across the Atlantic, has decided to stand 
for the legislature at the next election. ''The 
electors \v\\\ say/' he assures us, "that I have 
been drunk. They will say that I have been in 
jail, but I shall reply with repartee. You see I've 
always been deucedly clever at rapartee. 

The Mounted Police Barracks, the Indian 
Agency, the Hudson's Bay Post and the Catholic 
Mission are on the hill above the village. The 
Clmrch of England Mission lies out and beyond, 
on a further hill. The bankers ride out to the 
further hill to play tennis with the pretty English 
girls who teach in the school. 

When an elderly jocose Irishman so far forgets 
himself as to say ''darlint" to a breed-girl, he 
nmst not be surprised if she draws a wrj- face and 
calls him mitchemina; that is to say, **bad 
berries." 

I miglit wnie a book on tlie news to l)e picked 
up on this main street, if a tide of sleep did not 
threaten to submerge me. In this dry crystalline 
atmosphere, one must sleep an hour or two some- 



182 SEEDS OF PINE 

times, however unwilling the spirit or unique and 
alluring the things present. 

My room at the lodging-house is the best the 
place affords in that it has a cotton curtain for a 
door, and as yet doors are only used in the out- 
side walls of the houses. The curtain is not, how- 
ever, of much account in that the green lumber of 
the walls has warped to such narrow dimensions 
that the occupier of the adjoining room would 
have to shut his or her eyes to keep from seeing 
you. On the (Contrary part, you must of necessity 
go to bed in the dark unless you wish to fall a 
victim to the crafts and assaults of the mos- 
quitoes who are attracted by the lamp. In a fort- 
night or so, they will have completely disappeared, 
but, in the meanwhile, if you would escape their 
nasty niggling ways you must neglect your hair, 
teeth, and sun-scalded nose. A real-estate agent 
was telling me to-day how the mosquitoes often 
disappeared in a night, and, to illustrate this fact, 
related a story of a Tipperary orator, who said, 
"My fellow-countrymen, the round towers of Ire- 
land have so completely disappeared that it is 
doubtful if they have ever existed. ' ' 

.... A wagon is leaving this morning for St. 
Bernard's Mission on the hill, and by some felicity 
I am invited to go with it. Bill, who is the driver, 
received a bullet wound in a Mexican rebellion; 
had his leg broken by a fall from "a terrible mean 
cayuse" ; lost an eye and part of his nose in a mine 
explosion, and says, by these same tokens, he will 
live to be a hundred unless he loses his head to the 



XORTHERX VISTAS 183 

governmem. Bill was inariied once down Oregon 
way, but his wife divorced him. His wife was 
very sliort-sighted, but, eontrawise, her tongue 
was long. Besides, she was appallingly like her 
mother. 

This trail to St. Bernard's, passing as it does 
through a trail of lanky poplars and birch in green 
lacy gowns, is a right pleasant one, and fills you 
with the great joy of growing things. 

And also it is very pleasant this morning to 
shut your eyes that you may the better inhale the 
fine brew of the conifers, the reek of the wild 
roses, the pungent wafture of the mint from the 
meadows, and above all, the subtle incense of the 
warm spawning soil. This is to have a happiness 
as large as your wishes. This is to think thoughts 
that are very secret and only half-way wise. 

At St. Bernard's the nuns take me to see their 
finely manicured garden with its rows of cab- 
bages, leeks, turnips radishes and its many herbs 
such as parsley mint and sage. Their potatoes 
are coming on well and so are the posy beds. This 
sweet-breathed garden is tilled by vountaiy 
labour and held in common, but it must be re- 
membered the nun's occupation does not afford 
her any special opportunities for knowledge of 
the world at large and its shrewder ways. 

I can easily discern that the pride of this garden 
are the cabbages, probably because more care has 
gone into their culture. Indeed, this vegetable 
seems to be peculiarly favoured by all gardeners 
of all classes, for even the haughty Diocletian, 



184 SEEDS OF PINE 

when asked to resume his crowm, said to the 
ambassadors, *'If you would come and see the 
cabbages I have planted, you would never again 
mention to me the name of empire." In this 
garden-plot the sisters have erected a pedestal 
upon which stands a fair shining woman, even 
she who is the mother to their Lord and wonderful 
God. 

In order that her labour may become an offering 
to her tutelary spirit, every woman should have 
a statue in her garden embodying her highest 
ideal, whether it be of Isis, Mrs. Eddy, or Diana, 
the ''Goddess excellently bright." Such a statue 
would tend also to keep her religion a divine 
intimacy rather than a creed or an institutional 
observance. 

Sister Marie-des-Anges shows me the hospital, 
and pleasures me with a delicious cordial which 
is made out of wild berries and which tastes better 
than champagne. 

Those who have an eye for esoteric apartments 
with etchings and faint-coloured prints on toned- 
dowTi walls, would not be impressed with the 
wards and offices of this hospital where all the 
furniture is home-made. It is, however, cleverly 
contrived and has the prestige of being literally 
the original /'mission furniture" — no one can 
gainsay it. In this connection, give me leave to 
transcribe here a passage which I have met with 
in the book of Thoreau, the naturalist. "Why 
should not our furniture be as simple as the 
Arab's or the Indian's?" he asks. "AVhen I think 



NORTHERN VISTAS 185 

of the benefactors of the race whom we have 
apotheosized as messengers from heaven, bearers 
of dmne gifts to man, I do not see in my mind 
any retinue at their heels, any car-load of fashion- 
able furniture.** 

I know not the answer of this question imless it 
be that we of Canada need practice in the excel- 
lencies of those graces which have respect to 
personal simplicity and disrespect to coumiunal 
opinion. I have a mind to make a trial of this. 

It was in this hospital that "Twelve-Foot'* 
Davis (now in heaven) gave his instructions 
to his partner, Jim Cornwall, to take his body on 
a sled to the Peace River and bury it on the 
height of land. 

People- in the cities are too busily absorbed in 
tlie transactions of peers and politicians to know 
northern philanthropists like *' Twelve-Foot'* 
Davis, the first man to introduce steel-traps into 
this country and to thus dare the wrath of the 
omnipotent and indomitable "Company of Gentle- 
men Adventurers. ' ' You may not know it, but the 
steel trap has done as much for the Indian as the 
self-binder has for the white man. 

But down here every one knows that "Twelve- 
Foot" Davis was held in high esteem, and any 
man will tell you, as Bill the driver told me, how 
it was a full hand this fine frontiersman laid on 
the Lord's table and that none of the cards were 
lacking. 

Twelve-Foot Davis was so called because, in 
the days of the Caribou rush, he staked a claim of 



186 SEEDS OP PINE 

twelve feet. Each prospector was allowed one 
hundred feet and there was no claim left when 
Twelve-Foot appeared on the scene. But to be 
assured in his mind he was not outdone, he meas- 
ured the claims and found that two of the pros- 
pectors were holding two hundred and twelve feet. 
Davis wanted those extra twelve feet and the 
prospectors decided to give him a place directly 
in 'the centre of their claims on a spot where a 
basin of shale lay. From this narrow claim, 
Twelve-Foot dug up a large quantity of gold, 
and this w^as the only spot on the entire creek 
where the least trace of ore was found, even his 
neighbours being unable to pan out a grain. It was 
from this happening that he derived the name 
which, because of the question it carries on its 
face, would, as a nom-de-plume, be worth a cor- 
responding amount of gold to an obscure author. 

Bill, who is fairly amenable to bribes, takes me 
over to the further hill where the Church of Eng- 
land Mission stands, which Mission was the spirit- 
ual husbandry of the late Bishop Holmes. 

It would be pleasant to tell of this place and of 
the school, but Bill is in haste and will not tarry 
my leisure. It may be that his swaying motive 
is another bribe. 

It w^as only three months ago that the Bishop 
and his family started for England, and soon 
afterwards came the news that he had died in a 
London hospital. The teachers tell me the family 
who went out together on this holiday are never 
coming back, in that they cannot afford to take 



NORTHERN VISTAS 187 

the journey now that the bread-winner is gone. 
The furniture is to be sold and the house will be 
done-over for another bishop. 

As I walk through the home whicli for many 
years has been the most hospitable one in the 
north, it is with a mist in my eyes and a painful 
tightness in my throat. I touch the chords of 
Auld Lang Syne on the piano in honour of Madam, 
the mother; I kiss the house-flowers for the love 
of the young girls who carried them safely over 
the long, long winter; I finger the books in the 
library with affection in memory of the good 
Bishop who once told me kindly tales of these 
Indians who were his friends. 

And when I, too, hav^e gone, may it happen that 
some one who understands will touch my books in 
like manner, and say good-bye to them for me. 
I could not so endure it of myself. . . . 

... It was six days later at the sports that I 
received a proposal of marriage from Prosper, 
an Indian who is a trainer of horses. It was not 
wholly a surprise, in that he had already ap- 
proached the master of our party with an over- 
ture to buy me. The master had hesitated to tell 
me of this for fear I might be offended. "You 
see. Lady Jane," he explained, "it is like that 
case in Patience where the magnet wished to at- 
tract the silver churn," 

"Yes?" asked I, "and what did you say to 
him?" 

"Oh! I told him he was a master-fool; that 
you were nothing but a great cross-examiner who 
liad the misfortune to be born a woman." 



188 SEEDS OF PINE 

And his reply. 

*'He said he did not understand me but he saw 
you laughed a great deal and showed your teeth. 
He says he would not beat you, but would 1)0 yory 
mild and agreeable with you." 

Now, I was not offended, for the proposal from 
this young Apollo of the forest only meant I was 
no longer regarded as a mysterious invader from 
another and strange land. 

"Why should he not propose? In this northern 
world distinctions fall aw^ay and all are equal. 
As a usual thing, the Indian regards a white wo- 
man impersonally or with a half-eontemptuous in- 
difference. To him, we are frail, die-away creat- 
ures deplorably deficient in energy, yet, strange 
to relate, wholly lacking in the spirit of obedience. 
Scores of ill-instructed novelists to the contrary, 
no Indian has ever assaulted a white w^oman. 
This is an amazing fact when one considers how, 
for nearly two centuries, the Indian has guided 
our w^omen through the forests; piloted tiiem 
down the rivers; and has cared for them in 
isolated outposts. The Indian has lived rough 
and lived hard, but, in this particular, he is 
morally the most immutable of all God 's estimable 
menfolk. ' 

When Prosper pleaded his case personally, he 
broke ice by requesting me to accept a pair of 
doe-skin gauntlets more beautiful than ordinary. 
In spite of my declining the gift, he asked ''Will 
you marry with me?' assuring me, at the same 
time, that I was his saky hagen, or * * one beloved. ' ' 



NORTHERN VISTAS 189 

I would not have to travel far. He is one day 
from here if there be wind, but two days with no 
wind. He likes the noise I make in my throat when 
I laugli. The master explained to Prosper, "This 
is only a way she has of gargling her throat 
beautifully," a wicked cynicism wliich was lost 
on the bronze-faced tamer of horses in that garg- 
ling is, to him, an unknown and hence an incom- 
prehensible practice. The master also advised 
Prosper to keep the gloves for, if I listened, he 
would indubitably need them later. 

Prosper is a hardilj'-built man with admirable 
shoulders and a bearing like Thunder Cloud, tlie 
American Indian who was the model for Mr. G. A. 
Reid's picture entitled "The Coming of the White 
Man." Also, Prosper is daringly ugly. When I 
tell him I am already married, he sa^s. "You 
need not go back. Your man can find many wo- 
men by the great Saskatchewan River." 

It may interest the curious to know that Prosper 
ultimately sold me the gauntlets for my man, and 
put away the money with an imperturbable 
serenity worthy the receiving- teller of a western 
bank. 

. . . The sports were inaugurated by the slaught- 
er oi an ox for the benefit of the treaty Indians. It 
is foolish to shudder when we see the throat of a 
bullock cut. AMien a bird dips its long bill into 
the chalice of a flower it is doing precisely the 
same act. 

The heart of this bullock was fat, so that good 
fortune abides with the tribe. A lean heart is 
always unlucky. Once Ba'tiste killed an animal 



190 SEEDS OF PINE 

that had hairs on its heart, and Holy Mother! 
Holy Mother ! that winter he trapped a silver-fox. 

The white men played a game of baseball which 
would have given cause for thought to those im- 
personal pawns known as professionals; it was so 
very original. But, after all, baseball is only 
cricket gone hysterical, and perhaps the game 
may be further evolved under the aurora. Some 
one must take the onus of initiative. Originally 
the game was very primitive and I have heard tell, 
or I may have read, that it was really a baseball 
club which 8amson used to kill the Philistines. 

The results of the horse races are not posted, 
a fact which tends to a democratic spirit. If 
you want to see the start or the finish you must 
bunch with the crowd at the post. This also en- 
ables you to learn how wonderfully an excited 
Cree can vociferate : there is no other place in the 
world where a more efficient instruction can be 
had. And wiien words fail him, Sir Hotspur says : 
"Uh-huh!" and makes other sounds in his teetli 
like a flame when it leaps through dry rushes. 

The mysteries of straight, place, and show^ are 
not probed here and no Indian throws a race. 
The best horse always wins. The Cree jockej'^ rides 
bareback and beats his horse from the start. This, 
they tell me, is necessary because there is no best 
strain in Indian ponies. They are as native and 
unimproved as the horses of Diomedes that 
roamed the hills of Arcadia. 

The tents, bootlis, and dining-rooms skirt the 
track, and so the squaws can leave their cooking 



NORTHERN VISTAS 191 

to engage in their own contests without any un- 
necessarj^ loss of time. These include a tug-o'- 
war, a horse race and foot races. Tlie men engage 
in canoe and tub races, boxing bouts, s^sdmming 
and smoking contests, bucking-broncho exhibits 
and other physical tests for which they have a 
fondness and natural aptitude. Gambling is in full 
swing and no one thinks it necessary to apologize. 
Several men squat side by side on the ground and 
pass a jack-knife from one to the other under a 
blanket which covers their knees. The gambler 
has to guess in which hand the knife is to be 
found. It is the same game as ''Button! Button! 
Who has the button!'' 

The drum-song, that rude rough song of the 
suitor, does not start till after nightfall. As a 
general thing, the man sings it in a tent lying on 
his back, his face flushed and his eyes suffused. 
''Hai! Hai!" he cries with a blurred staccato 
that is without response, "otato-otooto-oha-o." 

After awhile, he seems to become hypnotized 
by the recurrence of this measured rhythm which 
is without melody and A^dthout gaiety. These 
drum-songs are indubitably the survivals of 
earlier days when the man-animal roamed through 
tViC land and made love-calls in the trees. 

The drum-man has one pronounced character- 
istic ; you can never mistake him for a Christian. 
On one of the drums, there was a sun-symbol 
marked in blue, but this may have been an acci- 
dental ornamentation. Or it may be the drum- 
suitor is a Christian who merely claims the riiascu- 



192 SEEDS OF PINE 

lino prerogative of changing his principles with 
his opportunities. You can never tell. 

But on the whole, the discordancy of the drum 
is no worse than that of the fiddle which supplies 
the music for the dance. Why people say "fit as 
a fiddle" I can never surmise, for a fiddle is al- 
ways becoming unfit. 

One hears much complaint in our province over 
oak floors well waxed, but here is a dancing floor 
that is laid while you wait. Cross-beams are 
placed on the ground and over them are put 
planks of uneven thickness. When in use, the 
floor seems almost as active as the feet of the 
dancers. 

The crowd is made up of dusky belles from the 
tribes of the Athabasca, Slave, and Mackenzie 
Rivers; many braves, and some few white men 
whom I pretend not to recognize. I am like the 
man Herrick writes about, ''One of the crowd; 
not of the company. ' ' 

The dancing is of a primitive order not unlike 
the natural movement which street children make 
to the strains of the hurdy-gurdy. 

In higher circles, it is known by the name of the 
turkey-trot. Scientists classify it under the more 
dignified appellation of ''neuromuscular co- 
ordination." 

As compared with a ball, say at Government 
House, this one has some marked peculiarities. 
There are no chaperones, no refreshments, many 
sitting-out places, and it is wholly in the dark save 



XORTHEKN VISTAS 193 

for the light of a tolerant and somewhat remote 
moon. 

A white woman who watches it is considered 
by the men of her own race to be one of five things 
— stupid, innocent, mean, obstinate, or unduly 
curious, whereas to be accurate she may only 
be a conscientious scribe. 



CHAPTER XVII 

A COUNTRY WOMAN AT THE CITY RACES 

Still do our jaded pulses bound 
Remembering that eager race. 

R. W. Gilbert. 

THIS favour would never have come to me if 
I had not found a two-eyed peacock feather 
in the paddock. It isn't reasonable to sup- 
pose that a simple, country-bred person from 
back Alberta-way could have such story-book luck 
on her first wager. La-la-la ! 

All the way doMii I kept praying, "Lead not 
Janey into temptation," knowing right well I 
would slay any one who kept me out. I take off 
my hat to myself. 

**Dear me!" says John. "One would think 
you cut your teeth on a bit instead of a pen." 
Some people like the idea of betting: some don't. 

At this Woodbine race-course in Toronto, they 
no longer have turf accountants. Their days were 
numbered when careless people started to call 
them bookies. They have been succeeded by steel 
slot affairs called pari-mutuel machines. The 
words pari and mutuel would seem to be almost 
synonymous, one meaning equal, the other 
ropicrocal. The reciprocal arrangements are like 

194 



A COUNTRY WOMAN AT THE RACES 195 

this; the party of the first part gets the money; 
the party of the second part, the experience. 
*' And the machineT" you ask. (I asked that too.) 
The machine, which is only an impersonal way of 
saying the Jockey Club, gets as its commission 
five per centum of all wagers, and I am told it 
makes as high as eight thousand dollars the day. 

There are as many ways of fixing the races as 
there are of making bannocks on the Mackenzie 
River, but you can't fix the machine. It never 
gets tired of being good. This being the case, 
people must study the science of betting just as 
politicians study the ways of the electorate. 

A shrewd-spoken gentleman with ruddy feat- 
ures and fierce white moustachioes to whom I was 
introduced in the paddock, told me some of these 
rules he had learned. He said **My Good Lady, 
I can see you have an honest face, although you 
come from Western Canada where the people are 
exceedingly singular. I will therefore proceed to 
tell you in confidence what I know concerning the 
canons of betting." 

"A tip, so far as I can make out" — and here 
he flicked a butterfly off my shoulder — **is a 
secret told to the whole betting ring." 

** Unless you have money to lose you should bet 
small till vou are using money which vou have 
won." 

He told mo many other rules about gambling, 
with much eagerness, for he seemed to conceive a 
liking for me, but it avails nothing that I tell them 
to you, in that no man gives heed to another 



196 SEEDS OF PINE 

man's method of plying the art, thinking his own 
a vastly greater superiority, in which respect 
gamblers do closely approach to the fraternity of 
the pen known as authors. 

This Woodbine race-course is a fair tarrying 
place, and I enjoy its beauty with luxurious 
wonder. Outside its high palings, there are thick- 
ly peopled, fusty streets, for this is the very heart 
of the city. Why any place should be cialled the 
heart of the city I cannot conjecture, except that 
both the civic and human heart are places of huge 
trafficking and, above all things, desperately 
wicked. 

The near foreground is a finely brushed lawn 
that, here and there, has burst into flame-red 
flowers. In the centre of the ring where the 
hunters take the hedges, two beautiful elms hold 
themselves proudly erect as if to say, ''Look at us, 
woman of little wit! look at us; we are finer 
creations than man, or even than horses." 

Off in the background, with nothing intervening 
save the elms, little sailing yachts like white birds, 
rock and dip in the sapphire blue of the bay. 
Strong-built motor-boats scud across the horizon 
in so terrific a hurry one can hardly follow their 
wake for dust. (The editor will kindly permit 
me to say ''dust.") We watch them, from our 
box, three women of us, with a field-glass which 
we use in turn for all the world like the three 
hoary witches who had only one eye between them. 

I like this landscape better than our prairie. 



A COUNTRY WOMAN AT THE RACES 197 

The trouble with the prairie is that you always 
seem to be in the middle of it. The garden of 
Time and Chance, it has no parts or passions 
unless, indeed, its spaces seem unfriendly. It has 
no mystery, no 'changeability, no complexity. 

. . . But all this is digressing from the races and 
from the beautifully, dressed women who look like 
tall-stemmed flowers. I heard a man in the next 
box compute that the feathers worn in the en- 
closure had cost a hundred thousand dollars, but 
no matter what they cost they were worth it — 
willow plumes, fish-spines, aigettes, birds-of -para- 
dise, ostrich mounts, ospreys, and other things I 
cannot name. Indeed, my oami hat has two bright 
scarlet wings which cause me no small satisfac- 
tion, in spite of the fact that John says there are 
not so much wings as a challenge . to combat. 

Moreover, he says when I am better civilized, 
I will know that feathers of any kind are an 
atavism and no fit dress for Christian people. It 
is trj'ing to have a near relative with such views. 

The younger men of the enclosure affect New- 
market coats, or Burberry's, and cloth spats, also 
field-glasses swung across their shoulders. They 
express horse-language emphatically without a 
word. The older men who have attained to the 
dignity of the Bench or the Cabinet, run to silk 
hats and frock coats. 

The enclosure is occupied by the favoured few 
who have boxes and who are designed by the 
Grand Stand as "the society bunch.** I would like 
to write about this distinction, and sometime I will, 



198 SEEDS OF PINE 

but just now the three-year olds are cavorting 
down the great white-way, for the autumn cup 
which has $2500.00 tucked away in its inside. It is 
on Star Charter that I have my hard-earned west- 
ern dollars — egg and butter mpney, mind you — 
and I must pay strict attention to this race. I 
think he'll win. The Lord never gave him those 
legs and that frictionless gait for nothing. I'm 
sure of that. 

The horses do not mind their manners at the 
starting bar, but pick objections, prance, and kick 
each other ^ith the most admirable precision. I 
have read that wlien the Otaheitans first saw a 
horse they called it ''a man-carrying pig." It is 
not possible to improve on the definition. 

But, after awhile, the horses make a clean break 
from the bar and are off in a spume of dust. 
Gallant-goers they are, and this is sure to be a 
tight race. Their necks are strained like teal on 
the wing, and almost you expect to hear a sharp 
shot and see one tumble. Indeed, they might be 
birds in autumn flight, in that they run in a wedge 
and seem to obey a collective consciousness. 

The jockeys ride high on the horses' shoulders 
and they ride for a fall. The purple and blue 
jockey holds the lead and he's going some. The 
enclosure says he is. 

But the blue and silver jockey is fighting him 
for every inch and he's gaining. The enclosure 
says he is. 

The orange and black jockey is third. He's 
carrying my egg and butter money. He'll win 



A ( UL.yriii VS uM.VX AT THE RACES 199 

though, for the jockey wlio stays second or third 
must got the advantage of the leading horses as a 
wind-shield. Presently he will slip the bunch; 
he's sure to. The enclosure says he is. John 
tells nie to stop adjuring the jockey, that he will 
never hear me. 

TheyVe only a little way to go now — only a 
little way — and the orange and black is coming 
steadily to the front. Even John gets excited and 
keeps saying, **Good I'il ol' cayuse," and things 
like that, wliich are bad form down East. Steadily 
on — steadily past the blue and silver — steadily 
upon the haunches of the red and blue — now on his 
shoulder — now on his neck — and now a neck 
ahead. This was how the orange and black won, 
but you should have been there to see it. 

And to think it all came from finding a two- 
eyed peacock feather in the paddock! 

Between races, we visit the paddock, insinuat- 
ing our way through the crowd in order to get 
near the ring Avhere the horses show their paces 
to the racegoers who make believe they are judges 
of speed, condition and stamina. As a matter of 
fact, the horses are all very much alike — wiiy, 
wispy things like lean greyhounds \\'ith rippling 
veins that stand out in relief, muscles of rawhide, 
and bell nostrils. There is little difference in 
their speed either — a second, two seconds, or may- 
hap three — but these seconds are, in their results, 
so vastly different to the turfmen that all other 
contrarieties become as nothing. The jockeys 
who know tlie liorses from their hoofs up, and 



200 SEEDS OF PINE 

who ride with instinct, are perhaps the only men 
who can fairly hazard what the results will be — 
or should be. 

They tell me that most of these jockeys die of 
consumption. This is probably owing to the fact 
that they must rigidly train the flesh off their 
bones. Napoleon said that Providence always 
favoured the heaviest battalions. The dictum 
has no application to jockeys. Our Western 
maxim that a cowboy is only as good as his 
nerves would be of more general applicability. 

But while, in the horses themselves, there seems 
to be little of marked individuality, think of what 
volumes could be written on their names. Here 
we have Ringmaster, Gun Cotton, Froglegs, Song 
of the Rocks, Tankard, Scarlet Pimpernel, Porcu- 
pine, Pons Asinorum and other names which 
hold a lure. So exactly co-natural are they to our 
extended acquaintanceship among the hiunans 
back in the Province of Alberta, that our home- 
sickness vanishes into the sunny blue. 

There were nine horses in the autumn steeple- 
chase and Young Morpheus would have beat 
handily had he not fallen on the last jump. The 
jockey rocketed over his head and lay still, but 
Young Morpheus, being a thoroughbred and no 
welcher, ran on and came slashing in to the finish. 
That horse has a soul like John's and mine, only 
better than John's. The prize was carried off by 
Highbridge, who seemed to be the favourite, for 
the enclosure turned itself into a pandemonium. 
Men and woman who before were separate en- 



A < uLAiivi SVuMAN AT THE RACES 201 

tities, became merged into a mass of frantic arms 
and white faces that with a pleading voice coaxed 
the winner do\Mi the homestretch to victory. It 
is the steeplechase that probes to the depths 
mankind's capacity for physical enjoyment. 

"But the jockey was throwm," you say, **and 
lay still ?*' Think you we wear the willow because 
of it ? Not so, Honourable Gentleman. We are 
consoled by the well-turned and doubtless truth- 
ful reflection that — 

** Bright Lucifer into darknejjs hurled. 
Was happier than angels quiet-eyed." 

I did not see any more of the races because I 
was sununoned to the Government House box and 
invited to tea with the occupants thereof. They 
nmst have heard what an excellent dairj^'oman 
I am, and things like that, but how they heard I 
cannot sunnise unless John has been telling. 

*'I'd like to live in your Province," said the 
Governor, "living is mercilessly high there, but 
money keeps moving; money keeps moving, and 
a fellow like me need never go to work without 
his breakfast." 

In the Directors' room, we refreshed ourselves 
with little sweet cakes and tea from a delicious 
brew. And in this room, I talkcxl with the hand- 
some, well-mannered women from Kentucky, 
Virginia, and Hamilton who have brought thither 
their horses — about six hundred in all — for this 
autumn meet. 

I have made up my mind that Jolm shall not 
argu»' mo into going home, not if I have to fall 



202 SEEDS OP PINE 

ill from discomposure of spirit, and, as for Tor- 
onto, ever hereafter it shall be to me a new city 
of Beucephala in honour of its horses and because 
of the immutable game-loving disposition of its 
people. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

IN NORTHERN GARDENS 

Away from the beaten tracks there are still by-paths where 
hyacinths grow in the springtime. — Asthub Edwahd Waite. 

FAR off in the Southland, it is in the hahit of 
Spring to come lagging over the land. She 
is a princess. You can tell it by her manner 
of moving, and her fine lady ways. Often, she is 
greatly bored. 

Under the north star it is different. Spring is 
a wilding horsewoman, sweet and graceless, 
pirouetting a-tiptoe and waving to us kisses. 

Hush ! and hold you still, my merry Gentlemen. 
You may catch them if you try, and they are not 
in the least sinful. 

Goldilocks, I call her. 

*'A young mother," you say, **and no Colum- 
bine." 

Pray thee have it so, for when this season of 
seven sweet suns has begun, she is all things to 
all men. 

What an ado there is when she calls to her 
flower-children and chides them to arise and put 
on their dresses. 

Sleepy lieads! Sleepy heads! 

The vi'Iets peer out of their green bed and com- 
plain of the cold, and as for the ferns, instead of 

203 



204 SEEDS OF PINE 

expanding into fans of green, they curl themselves 
into foolish fiddle heads and beg to finish their 
dream. 

The shy anemone, with flushed face, gets her up 
first that she may be with her mother. She is 
Spring's favourite child, but mark you, the maid- 
en wears a ruff of fur about her neck, and snug- 
gles into it, just as the pussy-willow does into 
his coat of grey. 

Those flowers that have butter-pats to heads 
come on apace. Some there are who call them 
dandelions but we shall call them children's gold. 

Ah! if flowers would only sing. 

How terribly long has been the winter with its 
tiresome monochrome of white. Every vestige 
of colour has been bleached out of the earth like 
one would bleach a tablecloth. 

By way of solace, our northern Indian paints 
his face and wears a scarlet sash as, by the same 
token, you and I wear poster coats and purple 
plimies. 

It was recorded a day ago that when our dogs 
run away from us they always travel southward. 
There is no doubt in the world they are seeking 
colour. 

Over the way from my study-window there is a 
glass-house where a man who, aforetime, taught 
school now grows flowers. The transition is 
surely a natural one. 

His is the last conservatory on this hemisphere 
— at least I've heard tell it is. 



IN XORTHERN GARDENS 205 

He lets me walk up and down its long blossom- 
bordered aisles whenever I am so minded. Here, 
in his floral sanctuary, one may take deep draughts 
from the warm subtly-scented air till, someway 
or other, it is transmuted into the alembic of the 
soul. 

May no blight fall on his roses or his heart! 
May God love him and let him live long! 

This man's roses are of ivory and pink, but a 
-few are red as if they might be the blood of some 
great wounded queen. 

Nearly all the roses are long-winged and heavy- 
headed. They could not be other\\'ise when they 
come and go from the land where dreams are 
born. Once, a poet told that the soul of a rose 
went into his blood. This was how he came to 
write the Idylls of the King. 

One of the gardeners ties the red roses to stakes 
and he will not have it that the habit is cruel. 
**You may have noticed, Lady" — and here he 
tightly draws the cord — "that most folk are hung 
by their sweethearts." I almost hate this man. 

Hath not a rose-tree organs, passions, senses! 
If you prick it does it not bleed! Verily I say 
unto you that it hath and it does. 

It is near to April before the lilies are at flood- 
tide. You must needs see them before Passion 
Week when the gardeners cut and send them to a 
large hungry place called down the line, Avhere, 
in prairie churches of tin and pine and sod, the 
Eastertide worshippers consider the lily and sing 
sonars about death and life. 



206 SEEDS OF PINE 

Not an inch of space is lost in the long lines 
where, tall and lissome, the stalks bend and curtsy 
to the passer-by. The glory of the lily is short- 
lived, for always they are cut off in maturity. 
The message they give is not one of prophecy and 
resurrection as the writers have ever taught. 
You may hear the message if you are still enough. 
'* There is no second flowering time" they whisper 
' ' Love while life doth last. ' ' 

But, after all, the lilies are white like the snow 
outside, so that I esteem the big purple hyacinths 
better, and the bobbing daffodils. 

There is an osier chair in one room wherein 
I often sit and watch the buyers flit from plant to 
plant. The women who come from the British 
Isles choose primroses, while those of Ontario 
and the other provinces to the south, prefer a 
lilac in bloom, marguerites, or carnations — any- 
thing they knew and loved at home. 

The Fraus, Madames, and Senoritas from 
Europe (every one must have a blossom for Eas- 
ter, else where is luck to hail from?) are better 
satisfied with heliotropes, azaleas, and claret- 
coloured cyclamens. 

Our erstwhile teacher places the Norway pines 
close under tlie palms; the tree of shade and the 
tree of sun that sigh vainly for each other. I like 
him for this. He knows that Titiana loved Bottom. 
He must know it. 

Very few care for my favourite flower — the 
narcissus. I always buy it, and a fern. There 
are folk who despise ferns because they are noth- 
ing but leaves but I like them for their history. 



IN NORTHERN GARDENS 207 

They are the survival of the fittest; types which 
Nature, in her great printing-press, never breaks 
up. Thoy are the old-timers of the vegetable 
world. 

Also, I walk down the tomato avenue and take 
my pick — that is I do if I have enough money, for, 
here, at the edge of the world, they are as expen- 
sive as Jacob's mess of pottage. One does not 
dream of robbing banks so much as stripping 
tomato-vines. 

Tomatoes do not ripen out of doors (but you 
must not tell the Board of Trade I said so) unless 
on a sunny slope, or by reason of some other 
special dispensation. 

Other vegetables thrive, and the cauliflowers 
attain a size and perfection elsewhere undreamed 
of. 

Never were there such toothsome red radishes 
as are gro^NTi here in the north, large, firm, and 
flavorous. They are not so big, though, as the 
radishes the Jews used to raise long ago of which 
it was said a fox and her cubs could burrow in the 
hollow of one. I have, however, seen a pumpkin 
large enough for a fox-warren, but candour com- 
pels the confession that the gardener fed it daily 
with milk by means of an incision which he made 
in its stalk. 

Our strawl)crries are not the eqiial of those 
grown on the Pacific slope, but are larger, sweeter 
and firmer than Ontario berries. 

We do not sit under our* own fig-tree (nor, alas, 
our apple-tree), but why should we sigh when 



208 SEEDS OF PINE 

each summer the sunflower springs up to a height 
of twelve or fifteen feet? It is the palm-tree of 
the north, only more beautiful. 

The Mormons on their exodus from Illinois to 
Salt Lake City sowed sunflower seeds along the 
trail, and ever since it has been marked by sun- 
flowers. In the province of Saskatchewan, the 
Russian refugees sometimes divide their fields 
by rows of poppies. In Manitoba, their hedges 
are of sweet-peas ; in British Columbia, of broom. 

After awhile, when all our real-estate has been 
sold, and all our companies have been promoted, 
we of Alberta shall have time and inclination to 
consider our provincial plant. 

Grant us then that it may be the sunflower! 



CHAPTER XIX 

COMMUNING WITH THE RUTHENIANS 

I hear the tale of the divine life and the bloody death of the 
beautiful God, the Christ. — Walt Whitsian. 

THIS is my first visit to Mundare, on the 
Canadian Northern Railway, and to the 
Ruthenian Church — the church with glit- 
terin<:? domes, the foundation stone of whicli was 
laid by the great Laurier himself. "Who is this 
Sir Laurier!" I ask. ''Ach! I cannot tell you. 
He a great man is," says Michael Veranki, "his 
hair is like to the wild cotton in August, and his 
face is beautiful, even like the face of the great 
Archbisjiop Syptikyi, who is a soldier and a 
prince, and the like of whom there never was. 
Believe me, Messus, he has seven feet high and 
has seven tongues wherein to speak." 

"About this Laurier? Ya! Ya! almost I for- 
get. He the stone of the church placed in the 
corner, and we drew him in a wagon with six 
bullocks. He the King's man is, and a smile in 
his eyes there comes, quick, quick, like the wind 
comes on the wheat. Ya ! Ya ! we much like this 
King's man." 

Nearly all the people are gone into the church 
and I follow. There are no seats, so all of us 

209 



210 SEEDS OF PINE 

stand, the sexes separated like the sheep from the 
goats. 

One's eyes become riveted on the large globe 
of cut crystals that hangs from the ceiling near 
the centre of the church, and the hard white lights 
from it strike sharply on my eyeballs like dagger 
points. All the people are making reverences and 
placing something on their foreheads like oil, but 
it may be holy water. Know all men by these 
presents that I, even I, am the poor ignorant wife 
of a Protestant person, and understand not the 
meaning of these obeisances, nor of this beautiful 
fete to which all the Austrian folk of the country- 
side have come with not so much as one mouthful 
of bread to break their fast. Neither shall one 
drop of liquid moisten their parched lips for these 
three hours unless — Holy Mother and all the 
Blessed Saints, pray for our presumption — unless 
indeed, it might fall to the lot of a woman to take 
into her lips the sacred blood from the golden 
spoon which the priest dips into tlie chalice, the 
holy chalice that is surmounted with something 
dazzling like a star, so that no woman maj^ even 
look thereon. 

Feeling all the while like wild oats amid the 
wheat, I take my stand by a pillar close to the 
door and pretend not to stare. Ere long, a young 
girl touches me and tells me she is inquested to 
bring me to the sisters. I follow her through the 
church and into the vestry where a little nun 
presses my hands and calls me by name. Once, 
she was my escort through the Monastery at St. 



COMMUNING WITH RUTHENIANS 211 

Albert, over by the Sturgeon River. Of course I 
remember her. She is the china shepherdess in 
black who says ** Please** instead of *'Whatt'* 
and who comes from Mon'real. Also she lisps, 
but what oddsf Plutarch tells us that Alcibiades 
lisped and that it gave a grace and persuasiveness 
to his discourse. 

She presents me to the other sisters, none of 
whom speak English, and invites me out to the 
monastery to visit. All of the sisters look mid- 
dling healthy, not having the parchment-like pal- 
lor of the city nuns. 

The service, she explains, is the Finding of the 
Holy Cross. I must not think it idolatry when 
they do veneration, indeed, I must not. *'Eet is 
what you call — Ah, Madame! I cannot find the 

word — eet is what you call " "A S>Tnbol," I 

ask. *'Oui, Oui, a symbol!" 

With many gesticulations and no small dif- 
ficulty she tells me how the Empress Helena, 
mother of the great Constantine, once had a 
heavenly dream which enabled her to discover the 
very piece of ground wherein the holy cross was 
hidden away. It lay under two temples where 
heathens prayed to Jupiter and Venus instead of 
to Jehovah. She caused these temples to be torn 
down so as not one stone was left, and underneath 
were found three crosses. Being doubtful as to 
which was the cross of tlie Lord Christ, the Em- 
press had all three applied to the body of a dying 
woman. The first two crosses had no effect (it 
was the good Bishop Macarius, you must know, 



212 SEEDS OF PINE 

who helped her), but, at the touch of the third, the 
dying woman rose up perfectly whole. 

This is a story worth lingering on, and the little 
nun would tell me more about it, only the cele- 
brant priest has come into the vestry and talks 
with us before he goes to the basement to change 
his vestments. 

They are impressive garments which he wears, 
but one might imagine their proving correspond- 
ingly oppressive. Kryzanowski is the wretched 
name of him. He is a large, fair man, this priest, 
in the full force of life, with an unmistakable air 
of distinction. On a snap judgment, I should 
place to his credit the ability to deal wdth a 
supreme situation. He is a priest of the Uniat 
Church, which church, so far as I may understand, 
is a compromise between the Greek Orthodox and 
the Roman Catholic, the compromise consisting 
of a prayer for the Pope instead of for the Czar. 

In our White Alberta much antipathy exists 
between the Orthodox Greek Church and the 
Uniats, and several years ago they had a lawsuit 
which they took to the Privy Council in England, 
and which drove to insanity one of our cleverest 
barristers. They are bonny fighters, these Ruth- 
enians from Galicia, and if they cannot *'have the 
law" on one another, they may always have the 
consolation of fisticuffs. And what, pray, are 
muscles hard for and skulls thick, except to fight? 
Riddle me that ! 

Presently, when we shall have tied do'v\Ti and 
diverted their tremendous fighting energy into 



COMMUxVING WITH RUTHENIANS 213 

what is usually described as civilization, we shall, 
of a surety, find a human voltage here which will 
send these Slavic peasants- hip:li up tlie scale 
where well-conceived and successful endeavour is 
weighed and appraised. At present, ah, well! 
they are young and positive ^and he is the best 
man who survives. 

The little sister brings me back into the church, 
where she places a chair for me close beside the 
altar facing the congregation, an act and fact 
which cause me not a little amazement and con- 
siderable trepidation. Will the priest permit an 
unhallowed woman of lean and meagre accomp- 
lishments — and she a Protestant — to sit so close 
to the holy of holies? Will he? 

He does not even appear to see me and swings 
the censer close, close to my head, over and over 
again, with the same free-handed gesture of 
Millet *s sower. ' He swings it out and about, 
hither and yon, till all my garments smell of 
myrrh and aloes and cassia; until, like Solomon's 
spouse, my hands dropped myrrh. 

Sometimes it is a rude Slavic peasant wlio 
swings the censer or lays the spice on the live 
coals — a rough-necked man witli red-browTi 
hands and face. He wears a caftan, or long cloak 
of skin, upon wliich red leather is cunningly ap- 
pliqued in pleasing designs. I doubt not he is 
from Bukowina, or "the beech-woods," for the 
women of that province are skilled craftswomen. 
He swings the censer w4th such deftness, that 
were I not benumbed by the languourous odour 



214 SEEDS OF PINE 

of the smoke-thick air, I would be wondering how 
this queer shock-headed acolyte with his bovine 
stolidity came to acquire the revolver wrist in 
such a high state of development. Surely it is 
well I am stupefied, for it might ])e irreverent so 
to wonder. 

But for that matter, all this service belongs to 
the people and not to any stilted crucifers or 
superior choristers smacking of professional 
piety. As occasion may demand, an older woman 
comes forward and snuffs a candle with her fin- 
gers and replaces it with a fresh one. The women 
even carry the candles through the church when 
the ritual so requires it. They do not appear to 
have any self-consciousness, but perform their 
part gladly and naturally. This may arise from 
the fact that they have been accustomed in 
Austria to taking part in religious dramas such 
as The Nativity, w^hich drama they once staged 
at Edmonton. I did not see it, but Sister Josephat 
at the Ruthenian Monastery gave me a picture of 
the dramatis personae taken during a rehearsal. 

*'See! See! Madame Lady. See! See!" said 
Sister Josephat. "Et ees ver' fonny. De tree 
ivise men are womens, womens I tell you. Yes! 
the black one too! She is Alma Knapf." 

This drama was vastly appreciated, especially 
by the younger fry of the community, w^ho enjoyed 
seeing the devil carry a Jew off the scene with a 
pitchfork and cast him into hell with certitude 
and great vigour. The older folk considered this 
treatment unduly drastic and an unwarranted loss 



COMMUNING WITH RUTHENIANS 215 

of useful material. Here in the North, we do not 
believe in killing Jews — no, nor even bank-man- 
agers — where we are not infrequently pared to the 
quick to provide money for real-estate payments 
or to margin up against the bad news the ticker- 
tape has spelled out. Yes ! it would be highly un- 
reasonable to allow the Ruthenian folk to kill off 
the Jews and bankers and it would make us un- 
commonly sorry. 

... I like to watch these farmer-women carry 
the tall, white candles under the dome. It seems 
like a vision picture or some sense memory that 
has filtered down to me through the ages, but what 
the memory is I cannot say. Indeed, once I read 
of a strange country where men used to run races 
with lighted candles, and the victor was he whose 
flame was found burning at the goal. 

I think the memory which troubles me must be 
of Jacob's rods which he made into *'w^hite 
strakes." He performed his rite under the lihneh, 
or white poplar-tree, even as we perform them 
under the white poplars of Alberta. 

And while the women march, they chant a weird 
harmony, the men's voices coming in at intervals 
like pedal points. There is no organ, or any 
tyrannous baton, but only, "They sang one to 
another," as the Jews did at the building of their 
temple. 

I am strangely, inexpressibly moved by this 
tone-sweetness. Sometimes it is massive, tri- 
umphal, and inspiring as though the singers car- 
ried naked swords in their upraised hands; or 



216 SEEDS OF PINE 

again, it seems to be the sullen angry diapason of 
distant thunder in the hills. 

But mostly they sing a paean or lamentation of 
the cross, heavy with unspeakable weariness and 
the ache of unshed tears. Surely this is the 
strangest story ever told. It is as though they 
sing to a dead god in a dead world. 

And, sometimes, sight and sound become blend- 
ed into one, and the sound is the sobbing urge of 
the pines . . . the people as they rise and fall to 
the floor are the trees swayed by the wind. The 
cross they are lifting is wondrous heavy, so that 
it takes four strong fellows. It is built of oak 
beams and the figure of the Nazarene is of bronze. 
As the lights fall from the windows on the out- 
stretched body, with its pierced hands and thorn- 
stung brow, it seems as though the tragedy of 
Golgotha is being re-enacted before my very eyes, 
here on this far-away edge of the world. The 
thing is ghastly in its awful realism, so that I am 
crushed and confounded. It falls like flakes of 
fire on my brain, till my mind's ear catches again 
and agam that most horrifying cry of the ages, 
'*My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken 
meV 

But I cannot tell you more of this story of the 
Lord Christ who was crucified, except that in some 
way it has become a personal thing to these wor- 
shippers, and, maybe, a joyful one. It must be 
joyful, for, at last, they hang a garland of flowers 
over the upright beams of the cross and from it 
draw long, long ribbons of scarlet and white and 



COMMUNING WITH KUTHENIANS 217 

blue, which the women carry to the ends of the 
church like floating streams of light, and between 
which tlie men and children stand to sing Alleluia 
and Alleluia. 

I know not why the priest stoops to the ground 
and touches it with fingers or his lips. Sometime 
the little sister from Mon'real will tell me. 

Henry Ryecroft, in his Secret PaperSy recounts 
how he used to do this same thing. "Amid things 
eternal," he says, "I touch the familiar and 
kindly eartli." It was in the silent solitude of the 
night when he walked through the heart of the 
land he loved. 

I have always desired to see the mysterious 
sacrifice known as the elevation of the host, but, 
now that I am an arm's stretch from the altar, I 
do not look but cover my face with my hands. 
Only I see that a dull red flames behind tlie man's 
ear when he takes the white wafer, and the veins 
of liis neck swell as if they hurt. 

But I look into the faces of the women and the 
men in the front line who receive the sacred 
essence from the golden cup and golden spoon, 
and almost I can hear what their eyes are saying. 
^^^lat odds about low foreheads, thick lips, and 
necks bro^^^l like the brown earth when each 
has the god within? The Ruthenians — or Gali- 
cians, if you like the name better — may be a sullen 
folk of unstable and misanthropical temper ; they 
may be uncouth of manner, and uncleanly^ of 
morals, but I shall always think of them, as on 
this day, when I saw the strange glamour on their 



218 SEEDS OF PINE 

faces that cannot be described except that it came 
from a marvellous song hidden in their hearts. 

There are no seats in the church, and while the 
sermon is being preached the people stand — all 
except the mothers with babies, who sit on the 
floor. These babies have pressed their mouths to 
the sacred ikon the same as the older folk, and, 
doubtless, some gracious kindly angel will guard 
them, ever hereafter. Indeed, I hope so, and that 
she will give unto tliem those things I most crave 
for myself. 

Father Kryzanowski delivers the sermon in the 
Kuthenian lang-uage. I am glad, for I am tired 
of hearing I should be a different person. I don't 
want to be, except to have hands of healing and a 
heart that is always young. Yes! these are the 
things I most crave for myself. 

Good gentlefolk ! wdll you be pleased to stay 

and eat brow^n bread with us at the wagons, and 
cheese and hard-cooked eggs? We shall not give 
you meat, for we would discourage the beef -trust, 
and, besides, this is fast day. . . . But you shall 
eat your food off flaxen towels which we spun and 
wove with our own hands. Yes! and we have 
wrought northern flowers and prairie roses into 
tliem. 

And further, believe us, Sirs and Mesdames, 
we sent five towels like unto these to Mary, the 
English Queen, that she might know that we are 
now Canadians and no Ruthenians. 

And Michael Laskowicz shall take your picture, 
Lady, w^th his picture box, and you may have 



COMMUNING WITH RT'THENIANS 219 

Ilanka's necklace like as if you belonged to us, and 
Anna's head 'kerchief which is always in this 
j'ear's style. . . . and we shall clap our hands 
and laugh and say, '* There! There! she belongs to 
us, this Alees Janey Canuck, now and without 
end." . . . They are engaging, these beechwood 
folk from Austria, and their loving kindness is 
like honey to my mouth. 

If it were more genteel, I would like to speak 
them fair, and to write books about them, but I 
have set my face against authorship. I will not 
go into the writing business, for I do greatly pre- 
fer wealth and honour, and to have my picture 
taken on a verandah with my arm around a pillar 
as an exampler of a three years of successful life 
in Alberta the Sunny. 



CHAPTER XX 

THE SHADOW OF THE SCAFFOLD 

It was my harassing duty to act as death-ivatch 
to the man ivho ivrotc the appended diary. On the 
day before his execution he made no entry, al- 
though he opened the hook several times and 
once ashed me to sharpen his pencil. I was 
not present at his execution, hut was informed 
that he hore himself with dignity and calmness. 
The crime which he expiated with his life was the 
murder of his wife ivho had left him to live with 
another 7nan. He had still one year to complete 
before obtaining his degree as a medical prac- 
titioner. At his trial, he refused to take refuge 
behind his wife's misdemeanour, nor would he 
permit his counsel to urge this plea on his behalf. 

I have held this unique diary for over a year, 
not feeling at liberty to give it to the public while 
in the service of the Mounted Police. 

E. F. M. 

There are yet six duys till I die. 

The words the judge said were "hanged by the 
neck till dead." Ever since, they have haunted 
me like a song that fastens itself on one and will 
not be forgotten. The words drag out their ghastly 
length to the sound of the Fort bell as it rings the 

220 



THE SHADOW OF THE SCAFFOLD 221 

hours. They drawl to the tread of the sentinel 
who walks back and forth outside my cell — 
hanged — by — the — neck — till — dead. 

Does it take a man long to hang? I inquired of 
my guard, and although we are not supposed to 
talk, he laughed nervously and said he had once 
read of a doctor who cut down to a murderer's 
heart three minutes after the drop fell. There 
was still enough force in the heart of to ring an 
electric bell. 

Five days morel 

They are a tireless breed, the red-police of 
Canada, and they have an eye in the centre of 
their foreheads that never sleeps. I once heard 
there was such an eye, but I forget about it. 

This boy who watches me is nearly my own age, 
and I can see he is sorry for me. I will not whim- 
per and wince, but will hedge myself about with a 
fence of laughter and bravado. It is tlie last kind- 
ness I can do to any one. 

I like him better than the priest who visits me. 
I look at the priest with curious eyes, this man 
who in five days will wish me a pleasant journey 
into eternity. He it is who will read aloud my 
burial service while I yet live. They have no 
sense of propriety, these men. 

May a murderer talk of propriety? No! but 
he may think on it, and write on it, and no one 
may contradict him. 

This ecclesiastic has never loved a woman and 
so has never hated one, nor killed her in his hate. 

Ilor mnutli was liko n hm] wound, but it was 



222 SEEDS OF PINE 

evenly pale with her face before I gave myself to 
the police. ' 

God ! I did not mean to strike her down ; I did 
not mean to, but I did. Once, I read that no one 
was responsible for alienating a woman's affec- 
tions but her own husband. If this be true, I 
murdered her twice. 

I stooped to her as she lay at my feet and 
straightened] her collar, also I pinned back a 
strand of hair that had come loose. Margaret is 
the best name of all. I like to say it often — Mar- 
garet. 

There are yet four days. 

It is not given to any living being, man or beast, 
to know the hour of his death, else the monstrous 
horror would drive him mad. Yet, I know it and 
am not mad. It must be that I cannot believe it ; 
that nature protects me vnih a density through 
which I may not penetrate, or that there are yet 
four days — ninety-six hours ! 

When I was at school, I kept a calendar on the 
wall and struck off the days till Christmas or 
Easter, when I would be home again. Most boys 
did. 

The guards in the hallways talk of horses and 
women and, sometimes, they forget me and laugh 
aloud. I know they have forgotten me, for when 
they remember their voices drop suddenly to a 
whisper; I heard one of them tell of a half-Cree 
he shot through the heart at the time of the 
Rebellion. There was, he said, no doubt of its 



THE SHADOW OF THE SCAFFOLD 223 

being in the heart, for the fellow drew up his 
right leg. 

The tragedy of my approaching death is its 
impossibility. How can one realize his execution 
wlien the homely smell of hot wheaten bread sifts 
into his cell! There is the odour, too, of horse- 
sweat on the guards as they come into ray cell. 
They are the Royal North-AVest Mounted Police. 

I do not know why they are royal and I am 
criminal, for, after all, the distinction between us 
is of slight consequence. They do by law what I 
did contrary to law. The results are the same. 
On the whole I think they are the worse: their 
killing by rule is so monstrously premeditated. 
And yet, this side of the subject has never occur- 
red to me till now that I am the prisoner of the 
police. 

But why should I carp and gird at these fine 
fellows? They are only the instruments of the 
state, that is to say of the citizens. I myself, by 
taxation, have contributed to the expenses of the 
scaffold whereon I shall be executed. 

The priest pleads with me that I may not die in 
my sin. He does not understand, and I may not 
tell him, that Margaret died in hers, and that I 
must do likewise if I would spend eternity with 
her. 

He carries the whole dogma of the Church in 
his face and shoulders, this old priest, but he is a 
good man and sincere. His endeavour is to help 
and comfort me, but his words are short-armed to 



224 SEEDS OF PINE 

relieve my agony. Surely my soul lias descended 
into hell. 

To-day, he spoke of my mother, but I would not 
have it. One need not die a hundred deaths. . . . 

" Oh ! little did my mother think. 
The day she cradled me 
O' the lands I was to travel in, 
Or the death I was to dee." 



My dread is not from fear of the physical pain 
of hanging, for, after all, the life of every man 
and every woman ends in a strangle. It is that 
these men will lay their hands on me and bind me 
with a rope and that I may not forbid them. The 
indignity of it is unbearable. The prison stripes, 
the handcuffs, the black cap — these are from the 
devil's wardrobe. 

It fills me with mute stupefaction, the mental 
picture I draw of myself when I am swung out on 
a rope, a grisly limp nothing of humanity ; I who 
this minute am young and full of sap and sinew. I 
cannot endure that men should look upon my 
countenance twisted into an inhuman grimace; 
on my horribly bulging eyes, and on my tongue 
hanging out like the purple petal of the ^vild flag. 
It is not decent so to mutilate a man. 

And when they have thus distorted my face, 
then will they blot out its hideousness with quick- 
lime like one would rub an ugly picture off a slate. 

This malign system of burying murderers in 
lime, and refusing the body to friends, doubtless 
has its origin in the Roman custom whereby the 



THE SHADOW OF THE SCAFFOLD 225 

reinains of the Christians were burned to ashes 
and cast into the river so that not a vestige would 
remain. The Romans thought in this way they 
would deprive tlieir victims of all hope of the 
resurrection. 

The guard keeps a li^ht burning at night that 
he may watch me the better. It is his duty to 
deliver me alive to the executioner. If I were so 
minded, I could sever the radial arteries in my 
wrists with my teeth and he would not know. This 
is why I laugh out loud and \d\\ not tell why I 
laugh. 

The wind blows bleak across the prairies and 
the brittle snow-flakes that beat on the glass out- 
side the iron-bars have a sound like the whirr of 
swords. I wish the wind would blow always, for 
it lays a salve on my soul. 

On the third day. 

My muscles ache for use in this two-by-nothing 
cell, and, no^v and then, a close-shut but invisible 
fist hits me under the heart so that I feel I must 
fall from numbness. It is stupid and super- 
brutal to refuse me space wherein to walk. To- 
day. I went through some gjTnnastic exercises and 
forgot long enough to hum an air that Margaret 
and I danced to at the military-ball at Edmonton 
less than a year ago. I am not sure of the words, 
but they concern *'an old eroy bonnot witli a blue- 
ribbon on it.'' 

My God ! but I have been a bungler at living. I 
have wagered with life and lost. I know it while 



226 SEEDS OF PINE 

I wait here to pay the reckoning and the knowl- 
edge confounds me. 

I keep sifting this question over and over — why 
is it that men arc hanged by the neck till dead? 

T asked the priest and he quoted the verse about 
an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, yet it 
seems to me people sin more in the observance of 
this law than they would in its abrogation. It 
used to be said by the Jews there was a time to 
act for Jehovah by breaking His commandments. 

There should come to me some severe punish- 
ment for the life I have taken, but it should be 
remedial in character rather than revengeful. In- 
nately, I am not a criminal, and for thirty or forty 
years could be made to serve my race wdth the 
labour of my body and the sweat of my brain. 
It does not seem a good policy, nor economic, to 
kill a man in order to kill the evil that is in him. 

Tivo days. 

This morning, a silent, fat-faced man with 
inimical eyes came in and looked at me, as if ap- 
praising my weight. He dared not put his hands 
on me for I have yet two days. 

I saw him once before, over two thousand miles 
from here, in a drug store in Toronto. The 
chemist told me this was Radcliffe and that he 
liked to play with children. He also said Rad- 
cllffe claimed to have adopted the profession out 
of purely charitable motives, there having been 
so many bunglings by amateur hangmen. 

It is quite true what some one wrote that in 



THE SHADOW OF THE SCAFFOLD 227 

waiting for the executioner to let him drop, society 
is revenged on the murderer. 

As I sit here writing, there comes sharply to me 
on the frosty air the sound of hard hammering. 
There are two men working on my scaffold. I 
can tell from the recurring beats of the metal on 
metal. 

It is appalling that the monstrous lesson these 
hammers are thudding out in the barracks yard 
has found me too late. It must always be late, 
for no man ever dreams that he will mount the 
scaffold. 

Xo! I will not whine. I will not be a coward 
and gag at the gall, but, oh ! I want to live so much. 
I want to live ! 



CHAPTER XXI 



THE BABOUSHKA 



There is a woman and she was wise, 
Wofully wise was she. 

Robert Skrvice. 

NOW Judea was a Province too, only smaller 
than Canada, and It was subject to Rome. 
In Judea, there was a touTi called Beth- 
lehem, which means a house of bread. It must 
have been that wheat was plentiful. 

But this Bethlehem was a small, small place, 
and the Romans cared not so much as one finger's 
fillip that a strange white star waited there for a 
little while to light up a birth-bed. 

I do not know if the star did wait, but it should 
have, for this was the most momentous birth 
which history has recorded in that, for all time, 
it changed the world's ideals. Its influence could 
only be weighed with planets in the balances. 
The baby's name was to be Dayspring, and Won- 
derful, and Emmanuel. 

... It is well the baby lay in a manger else a 
bullock might have crushed him with its hoof. . . 

And having for its central symbols a mother 
and a baby, this cult of the Christ can never 
perish. Its ethics may change ; its authority may 

228 



THE BABOUSHKA 229 

wane; its history he impugned, but its sjTnbols 
are eternal. 

Our idea of gift-giving at the Christ-mass-tide 
lias grown up from the offering made at the man- 
ger by the three wise men who came out from the 
East, Casper, Melchior, and Balthasar. The 
myrrh tliey offered to a mortal; the gold to a king 
the frankincense to God. 

Whether to God, the king, or the child, all our 
gifts should first be brought to the manger, which 
is only another way of saying that without love 
they avail nothing. 

I know a story about these magi, and I will 
relate it to the children of the North. It was told 
to me by Maryam, the ninth girl-child of Michaelo- 
vitch, a Russo-Canadian, in the Province of Sas- 
katchewan. It is about three wise men and a 
foolish woman. The woman is called Baboushka 
and her heart has become as water. Once, when 
she was working in her home, the three wise men 
passed on their journey to find the Christ-child 
and they gave her greeting. "Come with us, 
grandmother," they said, "for we have seen His 
star in the East and we go to worship Him." 

"Surely I will come," said the old woman, "but 
the oven is heated for my bread and I must even 
now bake it. After awhile, I will follow and find 
where this star leads." 

But she never saw the Christ-child because, 
when her bread was baked, the star no longer 
shone in the skj*. Ever since she has been search- 
ing, but has never found Him. She it is who fills 



230 SEEDS OF PINE 

the children's stockings on Christmas Eve, and 
decks the fir-tree on Christmas morn, because 
she hopes to find in some poor child she has fed or 
clothed the little Lord Jesus whom she neglected 
hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Long be- 
fore dawn on Christmas Day the children in 
Kussia are awakened by the cry, "Behold the 
Baboushka!" and they spring out of bed on the 
instant hoping to see her vanish out of the win- 
dow, but no child has seen aught save only the 
gifts she has left behind. 

Maryam thinks — indeed, she tells it to the four 
winds — that the Christ-child has left Russia and 
has come to Canada in a big ship with a ship- 
master. 

And so Maryam is full of employment, almost 
every day, knitting mittens and long white scarves 
for babies and poor children. You never can tell. 
He may be even here on the prairie, the Christ- 
child whom the unwise old Baboushka disesteemed 
hundreds and hundreds of years ago. You can 
never tell. 



CHAPTER XXII 

THE HERO PT1TEST>; OF TTTE NORTH 

This U-it-y all witli a joytul mind 

Bear thro' life Hke a torch in flame. 
And falling, fling to the host behind, 

' Play up ! Play up ! and play the game ! ' 

Newbolt. 

**T^>OR long years," said a Toronto editor the 
IH other day, "this country has produced few 
outstanding personalities except poli- 
ticians." 

Here spoke the little Canadian. By this country 
he meant the provinces to the south of the Great 
Lakes. Think of that! Think of that! 

Why, man dear, north of the lakes we have 
outstanding personalities to burn — and we burn 
them. And, here and now, let me say that under 
the northern lights, politicians must, perforce, 
take a third or even a fourth estate, for always 
we have to reckon with the missionary priest, the 
business man, and the real-estate agent, before 
we begin to consider the politician. Even then, 
I am not so sure but the editor and the railway 
boss take precedence of the politician. In this 
large, airy land, politicians are truly but small 
fry from small places — inconsequential ephemera, 
who age in a heart-beat and die. 

231 



232 SEEDS OF PINE 

If I had realized at tlie start this was to be a 
chapter on the outstanding personalities among 
the missionary priests, I would have begun dif- 
ferently. I would have said that the Anglo-Saxon 
hungers for heroes, but that the heroes were rare 
— that this was why the raw, ragged wolf-land 
lying about the Hudson Bay and along the 
stretches of the Mackenzie River was of deep and 
peculiar interest, in that it had the distinction of 
producing crops of heroes and that the breed 
never seemed to run out. 

I would have said that the story of the northern 
priest is the story of a man with an ideal, or, if 
you will have it so, with a dream; that the dream 
is one that disturbs his ease and leads him in 
perils often. 

I would have gone further and shown this boy 
o' dreams to be at the same time a supreme i-ealist 
and, without question, one of the highest types of 
human excellence in the last half-century; that 
lie has the dauntless spirit of the soldier, the en- 
thusiasm of the explorer, the enterprise of the 
merchant, and the patriotism of the statesman, 
an(J all for the sole object of helping humanity. 
In a word, that he is a special soul and must not 
be judged as general. 

It is to be regretted I did not begin this way, 
but, to quote the Roman governor who gave judg- 
ment concerning the Nazarene: "What I have 
written, I have written." 

. . . Among the missionary priests of the North 
there is, to-day, no greater outstanding personal- 



HERO PRIESTS OP THE NORTH 233 

ity than Bishop Stringer of tlio diocese of the 
Mackenzie River. 

I used to know him years agone when he was 
Isaac Stringer, divinity student, a lusty young 
fellow, lean and clean and strong of wind, who 
could carry a ball do^^^l the field past all antagon- 
ists and send it spinnning through the goal. "VVTien 
I say he has grown stout since those days, you 
must not make the deduction that he is under- 
worked and overfed like other bishops of whom 
we have heard tell. On the contrary part, north 
of 53° it is our profligate custom to starve all 
<liiriutaries. Indeed, it was only last winter that 
Bi^^hop Stringer, on his way across the divide 
from the Mackenzie River to the Yukon, nearly 
lost his life from starvation. He and his com- 
panion, Charles F. Johnson, were lost in a moun- 
tain fog and missed the trail. Southern folk who 
sit in offices and parlours do not grasp the full 
meaning of this, and I cannot very well explain 
except to say that Dante had an exceedingly fine 
insight when he made the Inferno foggy. 

For a week, in deep snow and deeper fog, they 
wandered in and out of Fool 's River, the irony of 
which could not fail to rub them sore. Returning 
to the Fool's mouth, they spent three days making 
snow-shoes and cuttirtg up moccasins for webbing. 
From here they ascended the height of land and 
crossed three divides before finding an east-flow- 
ing river. But again the fog descended and now 
came the fight for life. On and on they wandered, 
day after day, scarcely able to see a foot ahead 



234 SEEDS OP PINE 

and more than once treading on the verge of a 
precipice. 

They had been living on a daily ration of a 
spoonful of flour and rice and the half of a red 
squirrel each. But even this gave out, and the 
sorely beset men tried eating moccasin leather, 
and ended on muckalucks or messinke boots. For 
the benefit of the uninitiated, I would explain that 
muckalucks are contrived out of raw sealskin. 
Bishop Stringer has since told me that when he 
had divided the food, his companion assigned tlie 
portions, and vice versa. This is one of the trail's 
lessons. At last, after eleven days of blind stumb- 
ling, they came out at an Indian camp on the Peel 
River. Twenty miles further down, at the Hud- 
son's Bay Fort, the factor weighed the much- 
emaciated men and found that each had lost fifty 
pounds. 

In his letter to his Avife, who was visiting in 
Kincardine, Ontario, the Bishop says of his ex- 
periences: "The one thing tliat made us unhappy 
was that you and the others might worry about us 
when we did not turn up. But this feeling wore 
off when it meant a matter of life or death, and 
day after day we wondered how long we would 
last — whether you would ever hear from us. You 
can imagine we were much in prayer, and over and 
over again reconsecrated ourselves to the Mas- 
ter's service." 

This Bishop of Mackenzie River is surely an 
outstanding personality, and reminds me of what 
Robert Louis Stevenson said of the late John 



HERO PRIESTS OP THE NORTH 235 

Chalmers, a missionary of New Guinea: *You 
can't weary me of that fellow," he asserted; "he 
is as big as a house and far bigger than any 
church." 

Bishop Stringer's predecessor in the diocese 
was William Carpenter Bompas, the Apostle of 
tlie North, the man who has been classified by the 
Church Missionary Society as "indisputably the 
most self-sacrificing bishop in the world." 

His diocese, too, was the largest in the world, 
consisting of one million square miles. It had 
the same peculiarity as Bobbie Burns 's "cauld, 
cauld kirk" — there were "in't but few." 

William Bompas went North in 1865 and stayed 
there forty years, coming out only twice. On the 
first of these occasions he returned to England to 
be elevated to the episcopate. 

The only medical training the Bishop had under 
gone was a short course in the treatment of snow- 
l)lindness, and this when he went to England for 
his consecration. This is a form of blindness that 
causes great sulTering among the Indians, and the 
Bishop had himself been stricken with it on sev- 
eral occasions. On one of these, stumbling pain- 
fully at every step, he was led by an Eskimo boy 
for seventy-five miles. Writing of his agonies, 
he says : "They are delights. The first foot-prints 
on earth made by our risen Saviour were the 
nail-marks of suffering, and for the spread of the 
i^ospel, too, am prepared to suffer." 

Like Stringer, Bompas also endured frei^uent 
starvation, but s(»ldom spoke of it as a personal 



236 SEEDS OP PINE 

happening, but ratKer as applying to others — a 
virtue most hard and difficult to be practised. 
Writing about it to a friend in ICngland, he said : 
"Horses were killed for food and furs eaten at 
several of the posts. The Indians had to eat a 
good many of their beaver skins.*' 

Another man who endured the privations of tlio 
pioneer in this district is the present Bishop of 
Keewatin, Joseph Lofthouse. 

The most interesting, and eortaiiily the most 
romantic story of his career, is that of his mar- 
riage. His sweetheart, a young English girl, Avas 
due to arrive on the yearly vessel of the Hudson's 
Bay Company. Lofthouse travelled several hun- 
dred miles to meet her, but found she had not 
come, being unavoidably detained in England. The 
following sunmier he made the same journey, but 
this time as the vessel pulled up the harbour, he 
was able to single out the lassie's face on the deck. 

Yes, sir! if you had lived among Eskimos and 
Indians all these years, you, too, would tremble 
and choke in the throat at the ship's rope hit the 
mooring-post. 

But now the young couple found themselves in 
as trying a predicament as the Israelites with the 
sea in front, Pharaoh's army behind, and unscal- 
able rocks on either side. In a word, there was no 
minister to marry them. Things looked badly for 
them, and tlie lassie was thinking of returning 
home, when it suddenly occurred to the captain 
that, on the open sea, according to law, he was 
entitled to act as a magistrate. It was not long 



HERO PRIESTS OP THE NORTH 237 

till the good ship slipped her moorings and stood 
out into the sweep of the Atlantic, where to a 
time-honoured form, the minister and the girl 
plighted their troth, symbolized it by the gift of 
a ring, and ratified it by the authority of the state, 
in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. 

This is a good enough story to end with, but 
there are other outstanding personalities I must 
mention. 

There is Bishop Holmes,' who resides at Atha- 
basca Landing, and who has had many interesting 
experiences among the redskins. Like all true 
northmen, the Bishop speaks in a quiet, low tone, 
admirably adapted to the art of narrative. Once 
for weeks, he took charge of a Weetigo or Ween- 
digo Indian, in order to protect him from rela- 
tives who sought to take his life. The man be- 
lieved himself to be a cannibal, for in some 
strange way the idea had been suggested to him. 
After a time, the hallucination passed away, and 
the man returned to the camp. 

Until comparatively recent years, the untutored 
redmen believed that people who were insane or 
in delirium were either obsessed or possessed of 
an evil spirit, and that it was necessary to kill 
them in order to prevent this spirit from entering 
into others. The plight of the relatives in these 
cases was pitiable ; they could not allow a violent- 
ly insane man or woman at large, and the killing 
wa.< usually performed with great grief. 1'his 

1 Since deceased. 



238 SEEDS OF PINE 

custom has fallen into desuetude, for, since the 
advent of the Mounted Police, the perpetrators 
are treated as murderers and accordingly hanged. 
The most arduous duty of the police is the bring- 
ing in of demented Indians or white prospectors 
from the North. It is a task that has, in turn, 
driven a stalwart redcoat insane. One's nerves 
are apt to snap when, for weeks, you sleep o' 
nights in the snow roped to a maniac. 

And there was Rev. Henry Irwin, better knoM^n 
as Fa;ther Pat. He was a railroad priest on the 
Canadian Pacific, and, because of his unselfish 
work among them, became the idol of men. There 
are some misguided folk who think T)f a priest as 
a feeble, microcephalous body with a black coat, 
a shovel hat, and a superb ignorance of the ways 
of the world. Tliere are, we own, some priests 
like this, but Father Pat was not one of them. In- 
deed, his dress and deportment were such as to 
often cause scandal to good church folk who were 
not so conversant with his noble deeds and self- 
abnegation as were the railroad nav^aes and gold- 
miners. Father Pat had only been married a year 
when his w'de and baby died, and, not so long 
after, he was found almost frozen to death in a 
snow^-bank, from the results of wliich he died. 
Here was an elementary man figliting the ele- 
ments. The North stands at salute. 

Nor were the Roman Catholic missionaries less 
self-denying, or in any way smaller men than 
their Protestant co-workers. There was Bishop 
Breynat who froze his feet and amputated his toes 



HERO PRIESTS OF THE NORTH 239 

with a penknife. ''Sirs, it's bit tor lioneath tlie 
Bear." 

In 1869-70, at St. Albert, tlie ecelesiastical 
head-quarters of the Catholic Church in Alberta, 
Father Leduc, a complete Christian, nursed the 
Indians who were sick with the small-pox until he 
contracted it himself. Tlien the other priests in 
turn fell in line as nurses until every man was a 
victim of the disease. 

It is a scene that reminds one of Sir Walter 
Scott 's romance where the clansman and his seven 
sons all fell for the chieftain, stepping forth 
gladly into the gap and crying: "One more for 
Eachim." 

While the priests lay ill an Indian came for one 
of them to administer the last rites of the Church 
to his mother. What was done? You never 
could guess unless you lived in the North, so I 
may as well tell you. A young priest rolled his 
blankets closer about, gave orders to his attend- 
ants to carry him to the waiting sleigh, and, in 
this condition, made the painful journey. Mattress 
and all, he was borne into the sick-room, where he 
administered the viaticum to the dying woman. 

Father Lacombe, whose good grey head all 
men know, is the pioneer missionary of Alberta. 
He is eighty-three years of age, and sixty-one of 
these years have been spent in the service of the 
North. The story of his life sounds like a new 
Acts of the Apostles. In the science-ridden 
centuries to come, when these first white wander- 
ers in boreal regions will be almost mythical 



240 SEEDS OF PINE 

characters, tradition will love to weave about them 
stories of romance and mystery — dramatic, pre- 
ternatural stories such as we frame to-day about 
SS. Patrick, Augustine and Albanus. 

Perhaps the most interesting event in Lord 
Strathcona's visit last year to Alberta was his 
meeting again with Pere Lacombe. It was in 
the Government House gardens at Edmonton, 
overlooking the Saskatchewan River. All the 
guests fell back out of earshot while the aged men 
clasped hands and talked over other days and of 
the boys who had long since crossed the height of 
land to the ultimate sea. 

At the present time Pere Lacombe is living at 
Midnapore, near Calgary^ in a home for poor old 
folk and children, the money to build which he 
collected himself. 

. . . And there is the story of Father Goiffon 
who was frozen near Emerson on the eve of All 
Saints' Day, 1860. It was told to me by Father 
Lestanc,^ who, eighty years ago, was born at 
Brest in Brittany. Father Lestanc has been 
fifty-five years in the West and North, nineteen of 
which were spent at St. Boniface under Bishop 
Tache. In spite of his extreme age, Lestanc has 
a hardy-moulded figure, and a strong, clear voice. 
One cannot listen to him for long without being 
impressed by his affectional force and broad reach 
of humanity. He is not clear about things of 
yesterday, but take him back over the decades and 
his memory rings true as a bell. 

1 Since deceased. 



HERO PKIESTS OF THE NORTH 241 

Goiffon had been at St. Paul, Minneapolis, 
making the yearly purchases for his mission. 
Among other things he bought a city-bred horse 
t o carry him home. Fifty years ago St. Paul was 
seventeen days* journey from Emerson, on the 
border-line, and folk travelled in caravans. 

One day's journey from Emerson, Father 
Goiffon left the party that he might push on the 
more rapidly and reach his mission post to say 
Mass on All Saints' Day. To use a northern 
colloquialism, he travelled light, carrying with 
liim but one meal and no blanket. Neither had 
he matches or an axe, for, bear in mind, he was 
only a young priest, and he hoped to be in his 
shack by fall of night. 

Soon after noonday there blew up a blinding 
snow-storm that made progress impossible. A 
usurping, all-invading sheet of snow settled down 
over the plains and turned the air into a white 
darkness. The man tied his horse to a willow 
shrub and lay down in the snow. The hours 
passed painfully on, but the youth kept his head 
buried in his saddle that his face might not freeze. 
Wlien at last he looked up, he found his horse dead 
by his side. I told you a bit ago, it was a city- 
bred horse and no trailer. 

And now came the fight for life. The boy priest 
had no shelter but the flaccid, unstrung body of 
his horse, already cold in death. I do not know 
about the pain of the night, except that at the 
edge of day, one foot and leg were frozen and the 
toes of the other, so that he could not stand up- 



'J42 SEEDS OF PINE 

right. I wonder if he lieard the bell from his home 
in France as he lay in the snow! They say men 
do. Something must have been sounding in his 
ears, for he did not hear tlie caravan as it passed 
him in ihe morning. 

At midday he cut a piece of flesh off the horse 
and ate it. 

"A crude diet, Mon Pere," I remark. 

**Oui, oui," replies the old Breton. "WTiat 
you Anglais call a 'sleepshod' dinnaire! What 
would you, Madame I One must browse where he 
is tethered." 

The rescue party from Emerson met a man and 
boy hauling in the stricken priest on a sledge. 
They had heard him sobbing in the snow. 

The Indians doctored him for six weeks until 
his limbs threatened to drop off, and then sent 
a runner to St. Boniface to ask Father Lestanc 
what they would do with him. This happened 
fiffy years ago, but Father Lestanc must walk to 
the window and look out into the garden for a 
while before he can trust his voice. , 

For men and dogs it was a round run of one 
hundred and forty miles from St. Boniface to 
Emerson, but in twenty-four hours Goiffon lay 
in Bishop Tache's palace at St. Boniface, on the 
banks of the Red River. Dr. Bunn, the physician 
at the Hudson's Bay post across at Fort Garry, 
awaited his arrival and amputated the already 
putrefied members. The next morning Goiffon 
was found to be bleeding to death; the stitches 
would not hold and the veins were open. Nothing 



HERO PRIESTS OF THE NORTH 243 

could be done but to eabnly await the end. 

Father Lestanc broke the news to the house- 
hold, whereupon tlie sorrowing but withal practi- 
cal sister in charge of the kitchen placed a caldron 
of buffalo tallow on the stove, for, explains my 
narrator, "a priest's wake requires many, many 
candles. 

The little serving-maids under the sister, doubt- 
less whispering over the sad happenings upstairs, 
forgot to watch the pot, so that it ''swelled much, 
Madame," over the red-hot stove till all the house 
was on fire. 

Do not scold the girls, l)Ui uiia till I tell you. 
Such a thing was never heard of. It was really 
Le Bon Dieu who permitted the house and cathed- 
ral to burn. There is no doubt of it, for, when the 
priest carried the dying youth out and laid him 
on the snow, the frost congealed the blood so that 
his veins ceased to empty themselves. 

This was fifty years ago, and last summer. 
Father Goiffon came up from Petit Canada, near 
St. Paul, to attend a cathedral service at Winni- 
peg, on the site of Old Fort Garry. 

"Oui, Madame, oui, I comprehend when you say 
similia similibus ciirantur. Literally, eet ees a 
frost kills, a frost cures. Fot oos a well thing the 
body ees so adaptive." 

And once Bishop Grandin was lost in the 
j^ntn\. It was in 1863, near Fort Resolution on 
Great Slave Lake. 

With one Indian boy he was crossing the lake 
on the ice, following in the wake of a party of 



244 SEEDS OF PINE 

Hudson's Bay Company men. The Bishop's dogs 
were tired and fell behind. When a storm blew 
up he lost the trail. The thermometer was at 
forty degrees below zero, and the storm was what 
Father Lestanc calls a "poudrerie" — that is to 
say, a storm where the snow blows up like fine 
powder. This does not sound unpleasant, but as 
an actuality it is, in the extreme North, a sinster 
snow that bites your face like driven needles. 

The Bishop had no guide but the wind, and 
when a storm rises the wind veers. He gave the 
dogs their head, but even their homing instinct 
failed them in the storm and night, so that they 
crouched on the ice and howled in unison with the 
little Indian boy. 

At dawn the boy said he smelled smoke, for he 
was an Indian, and smoke travels far in the clear, 
winnowed air of the North. 

On looking to the west they sighted land, and 
after a painful journey met a dog-train coming 
toward them with men — the boy's father and 
uncle. The priest was celebrating a Mass for the 
repose of the Bishop's soul when he arrived, for 
"Les sauvages," says my informant, **had de- 
clared the Bishop would be frozen to the middle 
of hees heart. Ah, leetle Madam ! Whom Le Bon 
Dieu guards are well guarded." 

I did not know about this Father Lestanc 
before. I thought he was merely an old Oblate 
Brother passing from the sixth to the seventh 
stage of man's little day. Now I know him for 
one of the outstanding personalities of the North, 



HERO PRIESTS OF THE NORTH 245 

and, as such, would do him honour, even I who 
am of the world, worldly. I know things about 
him that happened years and years ago when this 
was no man's land. I know how once he nursed 
and buried a young man whose companions had 
abandoned him to die at Rat Creek, near Portage 
la Prairie. 

The man had gone into the Indian camps 
against the wishes of liis fellow-teamsters who 
were travelling from Fort Garry to Fort Charl- 
ton. But he was a gamester, and he went. This 
was how he contracted small-pox, and the reason 
his companions were forced to leave liim to fight 
death for himself with a little supply of penunican 
and some bannocks as his sole backers. You may 
not have noticed that the life of a gamester and 
the race-horse are short ones in the north-west, 
but it is, nevertheless, indubitably true, and this 
case was no exception to the rule. His name! I 
do not know. One forgets names in the oblivious 
West. 

Father Lestanc rolled the loathsome body in 
a blanket and decently buried it, for the buffalo 
hunters liad learned that in cases of small-pox the 
healthiest thing a traveller can do is to mind his 
own special business. 

"Did any one else catch the disease!" I ask. 

'*Non, non, no one else," 

The old man muses a little, for lie is growing 
tired, and this was fifty years ago. Suddenly 
meraor>' floods in on him and he shows distress: 
"Pardon, Madam, pardon! I took eet. Oui, I 
took eet." 



CHAPTER XXIII 

COAL-MINING IN ALBERTA 

Till dazzled by the drowsy glare, 

I shut ray eyes to heat and light; 
And saw, in sudden night, 

Crouched in the dripping dark. 
With steaming shoulders stark 

The man who hews the coal to feed my fire. 

Wilfred Wii^son Gibson. 

SOLON once told Crcesus that whoever had 
the iron would possess all the gold, but here 
Solon was taking coal for granted. Iron- 
mines are of comparatively little value unless coal- 
mines are within easy access. I think of this as I 
view the underground workings of a coal-mine, 
to-day, and of how our Royal Land of Canada has 
both minerals in immeasurable quantities. In this 
Province of Alberta alone, there is so much coal to 
burn that it will take a million years. Looking at 
this sheer face of coal twenty feet in height, I 
must preforce recall Oliver Wendell Holmes's 
remark that he was not at all nervous about a 
certain comet which threatened to destroy the 
earth, for there was so much coal in the world he 
couldn 't bring himself to believe it had been made 
for nothing. 

In time past, it was said hereabout that coal- 
mining did not pay ; that the profit of the industry 

246 



COAL MINING IN ALBERTA 247 

lay in its higher mathematics, by which was 
meant the formation of companies and the dis- 
posal of bonds and stocks. The primary work of 
The Coal Barons, it was further declared, con- 
sisted in laying up treasures on earth for them- 
selves, leaving the shareholders to find reward in 
heaven. The "suckers*' who purchased stock 
were said to have gone through the comparative 
degrees of mine, miner, minus. They were *'the 
bitten.'' 

From the uppermost appearance of things, 
these remarks would seem to be warranted, par- 
ticularly as the true westerner has always some- 
thing to sell and has even been known to lie about 
it, but a closer and more careful study of affairs 
sliows that, in this grim game, the mine-owners re- 
ceived neither the honours nor the tricks, that is, 
unless you are disposed to count the chicane as 
one. Most cases, in their futile efforts to bolster 
up the exchequer of the company, the barons have 
sacrificed their private fortunes, so that their 
titles may, with entire propriety be spelled bar- 
rens. It was one of these men who feelingly re- 
marked: "When a man's affairs in this province 
go rocky, vou may safelv reckon on coal being the 
rock." 

But now that the seven lean years of coal are 
over and the fat ones are well begun, now that 
coal as a revenue producer is only second to 
Mother Wheat, we can with calmer and more 
unbiassed judgment consider the causes which 
have hitherto been responsible for its "out- 
rageous fortune." 



248 SEEDS OF PINE 

Perhaps the commonest cause of failure has 
been the lack of adequate capital. The President's 
chair in a coal company is no place for empty 
pockets. To successfully operate his mine he 
requires money at any price. The initial outlay 
is large, the carrying expenses heavy, the un- 
expected demands many. Hitherto, this capital 
has not been readily forthcoming. Investors have 
preferred to buy towii lots rather than industrial 
stocks. In older and more settled conununities 
the opposite condition prevails. On the other 
hand, coal on the cars is cash. The mine operator 
takes his bill-of-lading to the bank and draws up 
to two-thirds of its face value. This enables him 
to meet his fortnightly pay-bill and general min- 
ing expenses, but, for two or three years, until suf- 
ficient rooms have been made in the workings of 
the mine, he cannot expect it to do more. 

In the meanwhile, there is development work to 
be done and development work is expensive. The 
entries or hallways off which the rooms open are 
costly to drive and they must be beamed with 
great timbers held in place by tree trunks. Initial 
surveys have to be made, and expert superintend- 
ence paid for. It is for such work the President 
requires ready money and free money. He can- 
not possibly make his working expenses to cover 
those of development in that the same managing 
staff is required to handle a small output as a 
large one. The same is applicable to the engines 
and hoisting machinery. 



COAL mXING IN ALBERTA 249 

The second cause which has hitherto hindered 
successful operations has been lack of railway 
facilities and lack of a steady market. Emerson 
has defined commerce as taking tilings from where 
they are plentiful to where they are needed. Coal, 
we have shown, is plentiful ; and that it is needed 
in the Canadian North-West we need hardly re- 
marl(, but that it could not be carried needs 
explanation. For several years our railways were 
lamentably short of equipment, so that the mines 
had frequently to close dowTi for days, or even 
weeks, their bunkers being entirely inadequate 
for storage purposes. This meant a severe loss 
to the mines in that their men and machinery 
stood idle and that lucrative contracts had to be 
cancelled. 

Probably no industry has suffered so keenly 
from car shortage as that of coal-mining. The 
only people who have received windfalls from 
this regretable state of affairs were the dishonest 
yard-masters who, unknown to the railway of- 
ficials, did a secret but withal brisk business with 
the rival coal companies that bid for cars. It took 
a goodly slice off the profits of each car of coal 
to grease the large palm of the yard-master. And 
who in this pushful, practical age has ever heard 
of a car spotter in the railway yards buying a ton 
of coal! The plethora of his coal-bin is more to 
the credit of his wits than his morals. My mind 
is fully established in this thing; as a grafter he is 
the perfected article. 

It may, however, be said in excuse for the car 
shortage, that the demand for coal cars synchron- 



250 SEEDS OF PINE 

ized with that of wheat, the rush for both being 
in the autumn and early winter. At first, the 
pioneer coal dealers in the villages and towns 
throughout the west, had neither the buildings 
wherein to store fuel nor the money to permit of 
their purchasing it, so that orders were seldom 
given until cold weather had actually set in. 

AVhile this condition of affairs still leaves some- 
thing to be desired, the dealers have had several 
salutary lessons and are, as a generality, becom- 
ing much more forehanded. The population of the 
west has also increased so vastly during these 
latter years, that the demand on the dealers, and 
accordingly on the mines, has gradually become 
steadier till, at last, the industry rests upon the 
well-settled foundation of a regular demand, a 
regular supply, and a dependable railway service, 
in other words, it fulfils the three conditions laid 
down in Emerson's definition of commerce. 

A third difficulty which confronted mine oper- 
ators, was the securing of experienced miners. 
The supply was distinctly inadequate, so that 
green hands had to be engaged — homesteaders 
who wanted to earn money during the winter, 
newly-arrived immigrants who took the first job 
which came to hand ; and farm labourers who came 
west to take off the harvest and decided to stay 
in the country. 

These men, while they came under the union 
scale of wages, were unable to do little else for the 
first winter than spoil their shots of dynamite, 
cave in the roofs, and blow out the timbers. The 



COAL MIXING IN ALBERTA 251 

mine operator, however, rarely became dis- 
heartened so long as the green man didn^t blow off 
his own head for, in this case, the operator would 
be called upon by the courts to pay staggering 
damages to the miner's heirs under the com- 
pulsion of an extraordinary statute known as the 
Labourer's Compensation Act. 

But now, in these days of grace, owing to the 
investment of British and foreign capital, the 
unskilled man has been superseded by electric 
drillers and cutters — in a word, modern methods 
are being used in our mines with the result that 
we have fewer accidents and losses. 

This application of machinery to the industry 
has also brought about a maximum of output with 
a minimum of expenditure. The development 
work can be done with more speed and less ex- 
pense, so that the old disabilities under which 
western operators had to labour will soon be 
cancelled out of memory. 

AVhile the application of machinery to mining 
must indubitably minimize the probability of 
strikes, the operators must be prepared to reckon 
with these mitil the end of time, in that throwing 
down their tools appears to be the chief occupa- 
tion of miners. It is hard to account for this 
irresponsible vagary unless it be that they receive 
twice as much pay as other w^orkmen. Or it may 
be that they make a fetish of the union, in which 
respect they do resemble certain stupid people in 
the southern seas who have a worm to their god 
and are wont to sacrifice oxen to it. 



252 SEEDS OP PINE 

Now, miners on strike are persons of no very 
marked refinement, neither are they given to logic. 
What Tennyson says of the Light Brigade is 
finely applicable here — "Tlicii-s not to rcasoii 
why. ' ' 

When you meet real strikers nothing comits. 
Yon may do everything which instinct, invention 
or despair can suggest, except descending to 
vulgar invective, yet without the slightest tangible 
result. No matter how soothly their employer 
may speak to them, they are suspicious of him or 
her. The intervention must always come from 
a third party. These men are the latter-day 
exponents of the old rule laid down by Dean 
Swift for the better direction of servants: 
"Quarrel with each other as much as you please, 
only always bear in mind that you have a common 
enemy which is your Master and Lady. ' ^ 

To find yourself facing a square of irate strikers 
is to feel yourself very thin, very colourless, and 
amazingly inexperienced. It is to wonder at the 
rudeness of their speech, the largeness of their 
mouths, and to speculate in a Christianly way as 
to just what screw is loose in their mental make- 
up. I know this to be the way of it, for once we had 
a strike in a mine which I, with a strutting but 
misguided assurance, imagined to be the property 
of our family. Owing to a former superintendent 
having entered into an agreement with the union, 
I learned we were holding the mine co-operatively, 
and that I could not dismiss the men either 
individually or collectively. 



COAL MINING IN ALBERTA 253 

The trouble happene<l in tliis wise: the presi- 
dent being absent for several months, it fell to me, 
as vice-president, to hold the reins. By reason of 
the facts that the seam of coal was pinching thin; 
that the miners were receiving one-third more 
than any others in the locality, and that we were 
producing on a falling market, we found we were 
losing nearly one hundred dollars a day. The 
superintendent invited the miners to discuss the 
matter without^ prejudice. They did not disallow 
the correctness of his contention but refused to 
consider a reduction of their wages. They were 
content to stand by their side of the agreement 
and would see to it that the company did the same. 

And here I showed a lack of discretion in allow- 
ing this matter to be discussed, for, while failing 
to deduce that it was highly preposterous to kill 
the goose who laid the golden egg, they still had 
the penetration to see that in closing down the 
mine because of lack of orders, my primary ob- 
ject was to nullify the agreement. Nothing could 
express their unmeasured contempt of the vice- 
president, and they left me under no misappre- 
hension as to their opinion of me. They accused 
me of playing them, and being guilty of the 
offence, I was naturally offended at the accusa- 
tion. Still, I declined to be led into further dis- 
cussion, or to recriminate in kind, so that 
ultimately I came to feel strong as «ne does who 
is intentionally weak before her enemy. There 
was nothing for it The miners had to walk out, 
all except the engineers who pumped the water 



254 SEEDS OF PINE 

from the sump. Now, the niglit engineer had a 
face so wicked that he miglit all his life have been 
stoking furnaces in the underworld, and he it was 
who permitted the men to enter the shaft and put 
a stick in the valve of the pulsometer so that the 
mine became flooded and several entries caved in. 
T was quite as angry as my temperament 
allowed, and it would have given me mucli satis- 
faction to have killed them, for, after all, this is a 
most effective method of getting rid of your 
enemies. It was, nevertheless, no small satis- 
faction when the superintendent, a tight-])uilt 
muscular Englishman, gave the engineer a touch 
or two that reminded the onlooker of a piston-rod 
in action. If might and right arc not tlie same 
thing, they ought to be. Two weeks later, the 
works were re-opened with other workmen on a 
new wage scale. On arriving at the mine the fol- 
lowing day, I found our former employees were 
picketing it. They had a crow to pluck with me, I 
could see that. The very air was portentous. 
Those w^orkmen were like the horses of Phoebus 
Apollo in that their breasts were full of fire and 
thev breathed it forth from their nostrils and 
mouths. Bvt while the men were abusive and loud- 
voiced, they were never insulting, for even Satan 
finds it hard to forge a weapon against a smile 
and an unwavering courtesy. And, after all, what 
can strikers do witli a vice-president who is a 
woman? It seemed like taking an unfair advan- 
tage of them. It was only when we met the 
miner's wives that I learned my exceeding limi- 



COAL mXING IN ALBERTA 255 

tations : that the power fell out of my elbow and 
the stiffening out of my collar-bone. 

"When I say **we'* I mean William and myself. 
Now, William was my driver, and he spent 
fourteen years in the British cavalry. He had 
served in Egypt and South Africa ; he had fought 
his way through a screaming death at Omdurman 
and yes, I will say it — ^AVilliam was "a nob" and 
handsome as a circus horse. His deference as he 
lifted me down off the high seat, his manifest con- 
cern for my comfort, and his superb arrogance as 
he bade the women "Give over there!'* were too 
much for even these raging furies to reckon with. 
His coolness under a withering fire of invective 
restored me to normal and enabled me to stand 
pat. 

To shorten the story, we had to engage three 
successive gangs before we w^on out. By that 
time the strikers had become divided, some having 
accepted work in other mines, while the remain- 
dor became discouraged and gradually gave up 
the picket. 

I have dwelt at some length on this matter of 
strikes because, as yet, no actual operator has 
expressed his view point or his feeling under the 
ordeal, whereas the strikers have made the street 
corners vibrant concerning the villainies of their 
employers whom they designate as Capital. 
In dismissing this phase of mining, I would say 
a strike is to be avoided at abnost any cost, for, 
apart from its factor as a somew^hat strenuous 
builder of character, it is a victory which costs the 



256 SEEDS OF PINE 

operator too dearly both in the expeiiditnic of 
nerves and of money. 

. . . Before being led into the discussion of 
finances and strikes, I had started to tell you about 
an Albertan mine and its workings. The theme is 
worth picking up again. Before you go down, it 
is well to have a look around the machinery-room 
where the engines pump up the water and pump 
down the air. You will also be interested in the 
great spool or drum which unwinds the long steel 
cables by which the cage is lowered or hoisted 
in the shaft. One man stands beside it and con- 
trols it with a lever. The man behind the lever 
needs to be equally as steady and effective a 
worker as the man behind the gun, for it is by this 
cage the men enter and leave the mine, although 
they may, if so disposed, ascend or descend by the 
escapement or ladder-shaft beside it. 

It is the strict duty of the foreman to examine 
this drum, these cables, and the cage every day, 
and to record his findings in a book which he is 
required to keep in compliance with the laws 
regulating coal-mines. This man must also care- 
fully test for gas. The maintenance of the air- 
circuit is a matter of much concernment to the 
operators, for on it depends not only the health 
and security of the men but the safety of the mine 
itself. Carbon monoxide, which is white damp, is 
more dreaded by the miners than any other gas 
because it is difficult to detect, having no odour, 
taste or colour. 

The Bureau of Mines in the United States have 
recently discovered that canary birds are ex- 



COAL MINING IN ^VLBERTA 257 

tremcly susceptible to it and, after being exposed 
for three minutes to air*containing one-sixth of 
the one per cent, of the gas, sliow marked distress. 
In eight minutes, they fall off their perches. As 
a result, many American miners are now using 
canaries to watch out for gas while they are at 
work. 

Black damp, or carbon dioxide, may be detected 
by its peculiar odour. It is heavier than air and 
tends to suffocate fire. After an explosion has 
taken place these two gases become mixed and 
form what is known as after damp, a mixture 
which surely destroys all life remaining in the 
mine. 

From familiarity with danger, miners become 
disdainful of it and careless to a degree that is 
well-nigh incredible. They will hold dynamite 
caps in their mouths for convenience, a risk which 
pales into nothingness the ancient simile of the 
weaned child who plays on the den of the cocka- 
trice, lie is a poor man of low-funk spirit who 
does not believe himself quick enough to cross 
a cage after the signal to ascend has been given. 
To run this venture is, to them, a matter of no 
moment. I have seen more than one miner caught 
and crushed through a slight miscalculation in 
this respect, but these accidents are so quickly 
forgotten that they do not act as deterrents to 
any noticeable extent. In truth, there seems little 
reason to doubt that most of the sudden cata- 
strophes which result in the loss of many valuable 
lives, are the result of some insane risk taken by 



258 SEEDS OP PINE 

one man. If these risks were not among those 
things which the Deity is said to "wink at," all 
miners would have been killed long ago. 

If you feel inclined, you might stop awhile and 
look at the skeleton-like tipple of the mine, by 
which I mean the wooden framework above it ; 
at the automatic self-dumping skips and at the 
rocking screens which sort the coal into the kinds 
known as lump, egg, and nut ; but the tempestuous 
torrent of coal from the hopper bottoms of the 
cars Avould drown our talk and assault our ear- 
drums, so, on the whole, it is just as well to take 
these things for granted. 

One's first descent into a mine is an experience 
rather than a pleasure. To leave the sharp 
,intensity of the sunlight and to be suddenly 
dropped into a horrible pit, is to feel oneself 
rolled into a tight little ball, with every nerve as 
hard as a nail. You hope, you pray, that the long, 
lithe cables which hold the cage are stronger than 
they look. You wonder if you will come out feet 
foremost in Australia, and if it will hurt very 
much. After a second or third experience, the 
sensation is one of swift adventuring, but few 
people care to inure themselves to this frame of 
spirit. Arrived at the shaft bottom, you are made 
aware with the aid of your cap lamp, of liuge 
square timbers around you and of a "sump" or 
well, underneath. It is into this sump that all the 
entries of the mine are drained. 

Without realizing it, jou will have lowered 
your voice, for the darkness and stillness oppress 
you as though you were bearing a weight on your 



COAL MINING IN ALBERTA 259 

shoulders. The air is lifeless and leaden. This 
is assuredly The City of Dreadful Night. You 
feel as if you were the last survivor in a dead 
world. But presently, a strong hand will take 
yours in his and lead you through the Stygian 
darkness till your eyes become habituated to the 
gloom, when you will become aware of two tracks 
stretching away in the channel which has been 
hollowed out of the coal. Then you will be warned 
to step aside and keep close to the wall while a 
stocky-car holding probably three tons is, with 
a vast grinding of wheels, whirled by you to the 
cage, there to be hoisted to the tipple. 

Your guide will explain that you are in the 
main entry or tunnel of the mine, and that there 
are other entries at right angles. These with the 
rooms which open off them, are surveyed by 
engineers with great exactness and according to 
certain regulations laid down in the mining 
statutes. 

Here and there in the blackness, thin tongues 
of flame move about like fireflie$. These are the 
lamps in the miners ' caps. You have also a fire- 
fly in your bonnet, but, of course, it is only visible 
to the onlookers. These lamps are like little 
coffee-pots and are filled either with carbide or 
seal oil. In the more modern mines which are 
lighted by electricity, lamps are not required so 
much, although no man ventures into the minC 
without one. Faith is not nearly so estimable 
a virtue as sight, no matter what the theologians 



260 SEEDS OF PINE 

may say. It was a miner poet (you must not 
spell it a minor poet) who wrote the lines — 

"God, if you had but the moon 
Stuck in your cap for a lamp. 
Even you'd tire of it soon 

Down in the dark and the damp. 

Nothing but blackness above 

And nothing moves but tlie cars — 

God, in return for our love, 
Fling us a handful of stars." 

These lamps are the footlights the miners hold 
up to Old King Coal as they pierce his sides with 
their electric drills, and wrench open his wounds 
with their ripping charges of dynamite. They 
call this shooting the coal, so it is just as well to 
keep your peculiar fantasies to yourself. 

In a coal-mine one loses his sense of direction, 
for there is no heaven above, no earth beneath — 
nothing but silence and black impenetrableness. 

And yet, when you are alone in a mine, you may 
hear a sound like the sighing of great trees. This 
is probably the utterance of your own blood to 
which you are giving audience as when you put 
your ear to a conch-shell ; or it may be the surging 
sigh of the enormous primitive ferns, sigillarias 
and lepidodendrons who lay down in these strata 
as though for an eternal rest. In the counting- 
house of the years, vast cycles have come and gone 
till, now in tli^se impertinent days of dynamite 
and electricity, uncouth, ungentle men have broken 
their rest forever. The complaint of the trees is 
not without judgment. The thing seems ill-done 



CO^VL MINING IN ALBERTA 261 

and almost, of myself, I can hear their tragical 
mil rnm rill ♦^s. 

The temperature in tlie coal-mine does not vary 
witJi the seasons, and the men believe it healthier 
to work in this underworld than to be subject to 
the changes of climate above. They have also told 
me that there is no echo in a coal stratimi. I do 
not know if this be true, but, of a surety, one's 
voice does not carry far in the dead air, and even 
the shots of dynamite seem to be muffled and 
indistinct. Nevertheless, it is my opinion — an 
irrational one, no doubt — that men who dig in 
mines should have music rather than men who eat 
in cafes. We need to recast our ideas about 
these things. 

It makes no difference how you have quarrelled 
witli these miners in a strike ; it makes no differ- 
ence that once you felt like murdering them in 
bulk, it is impossible to follow them day after day 
through the working of a coal-mine without seeing 
something heroic in their crude bent figures. You 
may not be able to understand the language they 
speak, for many of them are foreign born, but in 
time you come to talk to them through the smile, 
the touch on the arm, or the clap of the hands, 
which signals are, after all, the universal 
language of the world. Most of these men are 
kindly disposed and, when left free from the 
machinations of the laA\'>'er, are capable of self- 
sacrifice for their employer, and even of affection. 
In every gang of men, whether in railway con- 
struction, lumber camp, or coal-mine, there is 



262 SE^EDS OF PINE 

always an unamiable workman of ferocious 
egoism who is known as the camp lawyer. The 
legal fraternity will probably resent this misuse 
of their name, and properly so, for this fellow is 
froward in manner and has the same loving heart 
as a tiger. He it is who stirs up all the internal 
strifes and keeps them at boiling point. It is an 
art in which he greatly excels. In olden days, 
they called a man of his ilk a gallows knave, and 
the epithet was selected with care. Foremen are, 
nowadays, beginning to pay less attention to the 
communion of saints in their camps and vastly 
more to the communion of sinners. It is a fore- 
man's particular business to spot the lawyers 
early in the game and to deal with them as the 
occasion warrants. 

There are many things to be observed down in 
these black entrails of the earth, but, before we 
leave, we will look at the stables. They are 
lighted by electricity. It is the work of the horses 
to haul the cars to the main entry where they are 
switched on to the electric cable. It is commonly 
believed that horses who live in mines become 
blind. This is not true. Wliat they lose is their 
sense of colour, for in the dark all things are hue- 
less. These horses are fat-fleshed and healthy, 
and are so tame they can almost be mesmerized 
into talking to you. They seem highly interested 
in the story I tell them of how once the Frenchmen 
put twelve thousand dead men and their horses 
down three coal-pits at Jemappes, and things 
like that. They appreciate carrots, sugar-lumps 



COAL MINING IN ^VLBERTA 263 

and apples, which have been steadily purloined 
from the cook's pantry at the bunk-house, in 
a way that is positively human. It would be un- 
kind to enter the mine without carrying a treat 
for the horses, but now, having done so, let me bid 
all of you one the day-shift a very good fortune, 
and a safe return to God's blessed sunshine. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

THE PLAYGROUNDS OF THE WEST 

Come, my love, and let us wander 
Cross the hills and over yonder. 

Ct Wahman. 

BANFF, in the Rocky Mountains, has been 
so often called the playgrounds of the 
West, that the words have become trite and 
fail to cjirry their true significance. This fact is 
inevitably borne in on the Canadian who visits 
the place, and he wonders to himself why he has 
failed to understand it before. 

Assuredly this is my experience as I ride 
around Tunnel Mountain this beautiful August 
day. The road is seven miles long, and from its 
winding ascent, one may look across the hills and 
down the wide valley where the green waters of 
the Bow River foam into white over the rocks. 
This is the full-robed, full-voiced choir of the 
mountain temple, but I do not know what it sings. 

The Valley of the Bow River with its amphi- 
theatre of hills is the wonder picture of the 
Rockies, combining, as it does, all that is most 
beautiful in are and nature. 

Across it, on Tunnel Mountain, is the splendid 
hostelry of the Canadian Pacific Railway; warm 
sulphur springs that bubble jip out of the earth, 

264 



THE PLAYGROUNDS OF THE WEST JG5 

and a cave of waters which is an extinct geyser, 
but luii^ht be the matrix of the hills themselves. 

Geologists say that the eastern ranges of the 
Rocky Mountains are of the Eocene Age, and that 
the western ridges are Pliocene, and eons younger. 
But these revelations of science are almost as 
everwhelming as our ignorance. They tell of the 
inmiensity of time but do not sound it. It is not 
possible to level them to our mental capacity. 

A wealthy Sheik who once lived in the Land of 
Uz told us how God challenged him to answer 
certain questions about the moimtains. 

'** Where wast thou when I laid the foundations 
of the earth?" 

**Who hath stretched the line upon it!** 
*'Who hath divided a watercourse for the over- 
flowing of the waters?'* 

But Job could not answer so much as one ques- 
tion, and he said, "Behold I am vile; what shall I 
answer Thee? I will lay my hand upon my 
mouth.'* 

This Job, it would appear, was no ordinary sort 
of man, and one who was very vn.se. 

And ever since, mankind has puzzled itself with 
these riddles, even as you and I are puzzled. 
Sometimes we do not so much as believe in the 
great Lord, who is thought to have made this 
world, and we say, "Aha!" and other scornful 
words that are wicked exceedingly. But, up in 
the hills, we comprehend God without so much 
as an effort. He is natural here. These scenes 
of subliuiitv break in on our life's dead levol and 



266 SEEDS OF PINE 

show us depth within ourselves unsounded before. 
Impulses which have been inf ormulate, and aspira- 
tions which the years have strangled are brought 
to life and sentience. ''Blessed be the hills," say 
I, and you must reply, ''Amen and Amen." 

This road twists upward easily, but, in one 
place, they have made it into stone stairways, 
with each tread many feet wide so that the horses 
can find firm footing. This stairway looks to be 
a Imndred feet in height. All the horses must go 
one way round the mountain, and not turn back- 
wards, for there is no room to pass on the trail. 
Every little while, you stop to look at the savage 
rock forms which surround you, or at their 
colours. It was no stinting brush that laid them 
on. Opal and wine-red, purple and ochre, splash 
the rocks with living hues of wonderful beauty. It 
is a pity we have not more lavish words for these 
transfiguration scenes of Nature. It is foolish 
to try and explain them with our worn-out ones. 
Every traveller realizes this. For my part, in 
the mountains, I always feel like that Eton boy 
of fourteen, who was at the Battle of Waterloo. 
His first letter home was to this effect: "Dear 
Manama : Cousin Tom and I are all right. I never 
saw anything like it in my life. " 

There are few birds hereabout. I have only 
seen a robin and a hawk, The hawk hovered 
above as if undecided what to do and then fell as 
if lie had been dropped from a plummet. This 
bird has an instinct for the straight line that 
might shame even a Dominion land surveyor. 



THE PLAYGROUNDS OF THE WEST 267 

This and the fact that the hawk has been known 
to eat mosquitoes, are his only claims to our 
attention or respect. All the world knows him 
for a predaceous bird, and that his heart is a 
fierce furnace. 

A nice-seeming man who is working on the road 
tells me there are many kinds of animals in the 
Banff Park, but that they are all preserved. In 
the corral there are eighty buffaloes. The corral 
consists of two thousand acres. The white-tailed 
deer are so tame they come up to the village. 
There are wolverenes, too, and these animals are 
of so covetous a nature they will steal even a 
frWng pan. The Indians call them carcajous, 
which means **the gluttons.** 

This man says he was formerly a fur-pup, by 
which expression he means a trapper. He left 
the trap-line because his partner was always ob- 
jecting to bacon for dinner. Huh! Huh! to hear 
him complain, one might almost think the Lord 
grew bacon for consumption at breakfast only. 

Riding up the hill through the green trees, I 
feel as if I were in the opening paragraph of a 
story, and an half expecting at each bend of the 
road to meet a knight in armour with a retinue 
of servants. As he fails to appear I talk to Swal- 
low, my mare, and she t\sntches her ears as though 
she understands. Indeed, there is little doubt but 
that she does . 

"Let us stay awhile here,** say I, "and look at 
this gay young squirrel. He is enlarging his bur- 
row as if he intended finishing it in five minutes. 



268 SEEDS OF PINE 

He is no hireling squirrel. What say you, 
Swallow! 

If a mare can laugh, this one does, but maybe 
it is only her way of coughing. 

''And I have an idea. Swallow, that she is in- 
side with four or five baby squirrels, who think 
the world is lined with fur and that life consists 
in drawing nutriment from a warm breast. This 
must be the way of it. ' ' 

' ' Step along, my pretty one, and may it happen 
we shall find the Knight round the next turn. 
Do you notice how the green trees grow like a 
mane on the hills ? ' ' 

Swallow thinks ditTerently. It is her opinion 
that the dark needle-like pines stand erect in 
the same way as the fur on a grizzly's back. I 
know this, else why does she shy violently as we 
make tlie turn? 

** You are wrong, my pretty one," say I. ''These 
pine-trees are very religious and much too digni- 
fied to attack you and me. Besides, the needles of 
the pines drive devils away, and if you carry a 
sprig of spruce with you in the woods, no ill-luck 
will ever come to you. Theophile Trembly, who is 
a woodsman and a ranger, told me this. 

"Do not linger, Sweet-o '-my-Heart ; the world 
is young and you and I ma> ride forever. 

"These are juniper-bushes, any one can see. 
i\laybe if I were to lie under one, like the Tishbite 
(lid, an angel might touch me. And maybe I 
iihould also find 'a cake baken with coals', and a 
cruse of water. I would tell you. Swallow, how 



THE PLAYGROUNDS OF THE WEST 269 

it tasted in my mouth, for the Tishbite forgot this 
thing. And I would mention where the angel got 
the coals. They must have been the 'coals of 
juniper* of which King David wrote, for thesfe are, 
to this very day, the best charcoals in all the 
world. ^Vliere the divine visitant found the match 
to kindle the coals . . . 

"Ah, well! I'll ask the Padre about this, but 
like as not he'll say, "An irrevelant and irreverent 
question, M'Dear!" although it is neither one nor 
the other, for it argues well for humanity that an 
angel, who is generally portrayed as a rather 
offish being, should know" where to find a match 
and how to use it, A lot could be said on this very 
point. It pleasures me not a little that an angel 
I'lom the skies built a fire out of doors and cooked 
cakes on it. This surely means that when the 
angels take recreation they play at being men and 
that they have a kindly feeling for us. It might 
be that there are more of them around about than 
we have any idea, neighbourly-like angel of sap 
•ind sinew, who occasionally bear a hand in om* 
work and who loaf around of evenings by tho 
campfire. If an angel can cook on an out-door fire, 
he nmst know" how to hang a blanket to the wind- 
ward side, and an angel who knows this is no 
nidnoddy fellow, I can tell you. 

"If you were listening more attentively, Swal- 
low, and if I were not afraid of the Padre finding 
out, I would push this idea further and say that, 
when the angel was through with his meal, he 
would in all likelihood be humanelv tired and 



270 SEEDS OF PINE 

would fall asleep on a heaped up mattress of fir 
needles and dried juniper leaves. These, as is 
their wont, would whisper immemorial secrets to 
him, so that he might come in time to be a little 
more tolerant of our failings and to wonder if it 
were altogether fair that the soul of a man should 
be damned for his body's needs. He might even 
think the same about a woman's soul. It cannot 
fail to vastly affect an angel's opinions w^hen, in- 
stead of looking down from the sky, he lies on a 
bed of leaves and looks up at it. The whole colour 
and texture of his ideas must be altered. I be- 
lieve he would come to feel that religious truths 
should vary to suit the needs of humanity, as those 
needs change, and that religion should serve men 
rather than men religion. 

''A young god-man said something about this 
one day in a wheatfield, but he was reproved by 
his wincing hearers whose descendants are with 
us to this very day." 

This conversation has become too philosophical 
for Swallow, whose ears are sweetly holden and 
who shows her wish to change my thought by 
single footing whenever we come to a level 
stretch. Doubtless, she hopes to draw my atten- 
tion to her easy and right pleasant gait. If I 
owned her we might become great cronies. 

On the top of the mountain to which we have 
come, the leaves on the deciduous trees seem 
smaller and about the size of rabbits' ears. On 
my way hither, I passed bluebells, ferns, heather, 
roses, wild cotton, and painter's brush, the plant 



THE PLAYGROUNDS OP THE WEST 271 

which combines colour with heat. From several 
tliousand feet below comes up to me the bellow of 
the train's engine, that makes long hollow echoes 
among the peaks. A peculiarity of the north is 
that the sounds seem only to emphasize the silence 
and loneliness. This engine makes an ill-noise, 
but without the railway, these mountains must 
have remained unseen to all except a hard- 
muscled and adventurous few. For this reason, 
we must feel something of the gratitude of the 
Chief of the Blackfeet Indians, who, in 1885, be- 
cause of the friendly spirit of his tribe tow^ards the 
builders, was given a pass ticket over the Can- 
adian Pacifio Railway by the President thereof. 
The ticket was given him in a carved frame. The 
letter in which he acknowledged the courtesy read 
like this: **I salute you, Chief, great One! I 
am pleased with railway key opening road free to 
me. The chains and rich covering of your name 
writing; its wonderful power to ope© the road 
show the greatness of your chieftainship. I have 
done. 

his 
"Crow X Foot," 
mark. 
Standing on this hill and looking off into the 
sky, I and my horse seem poised in mid air. It 
wouldn 't be so hard to fly. Hitherto, I have been 
following pleasure as something to be caught, and, 
of a sudden, I have ridden into it. Don't you 
know me! I am Columbine pirouetting on the 
white horse of the North. 



272 SEEDS OF PINE 

Don't you know this is summer time on the hills 
where Nature has wealth to spill like a mad- 
woman and spills it? On this mountain-top, there 
is a wandering wind soft as a cliild's caress. I 
must make the best of it and of the fierce radiance 
of the sunshine, for, sooner than we bargain for, 
the Lord in his derision may send a cutting bliz- 
zard and it will be cold, so cold. 

As I ride homeward down the trail, I lift up 
my voice and hallo to the sun for joy. You may 
call this mountain madness if you care to. Don't 
you know that it matters not a finger's fillip 
what any one says about a climber 's mood or man- 
ner once she has reached the heights! Barbed 
arrows fall off in this rarefied air, and this, I take 
it, is the great reward of the climb. 

There are other compensations on the heights. 
You may shut your eyes and have a vision of the 
land that lies beneath you ... let us say a vision 
of Mother Canada and her nine daughters, and of 
the part they are destined to play in history. 
You may open your eyes again to ponder how they 
will grapple wit hthe problems of race assimila- 
tion; of arbitration and war; of morals and 
politics; and of labour and capital. You will 
conclude that nothing unfair can exist long in 
this land of wide spaces, and that Canada is sure 
to think and act greatly. And right here is a good 
place to repeat her prayer which it rests with each 
of us to answer — 

" Bring me men to match my mountains; 
Brinp me men to match my plains; 
Men with empires in their purpoo^', 
And new eras in their brains." 



THE PLAYGROUNDS OF THE WEST 273 

When you are come down off the mountains 
there are other things to be seen at Banff, like the 
golf-links, the aviary, and the museums, but you 
will enjoy the water pastimes best, that is, if you 
are a Canadian or an American. The European 
will be shocked to see the sexes bathing together 
at this famous spa, for in Europe, it is their wish 
to bathe privately even in the ocean. 

The outdoor swimming pool is a sulphur water, 
and comes up from the hot underworld. The 
pool is set in a splendid quadrangular court of 
grey stone, open to the sky, but shielded to wind- 
ward with glass. Red-lipped flowers drip over its 
pillars, adding vastly to the charm of the scene. 
The pool is flanked on the hotel side by retiring- 
rooms which are as luxurious and sleep inviting 
as those of ancient Rome or Pompeii. Overhead, 
the guests may look down into the green waters 
and watch the bathers spring from the diving- 
boards or cavort about like young dolphins, 
tritons, or lightsome naiads. No matter how 
phlegmatic you may be, you will wish to tarry 
here indefinitely and to rest from your labours, 
for a voluptuous languor slides into your veins 
till even the mountains round about seem illusory 
and unreal. Here it is "Paradise enow." With 
this alchemy of water and sun and these electric 
currents of earth and sky, you could hardly expect 
aught but healing and enchantment. 

But the attendants will not let you stay too long 
in the water, for it is not wise to accumulate any 
more sulphur on your person than is necessary to 



274 SEEDS OF PINE 

strike a light, for, owing to our proximity to the 
magnetic pole, most of us are already dynamos. 

At the fall of day, a storm rises in the hills. 
These seem to come close together and whisper, 
and the sound is like the whirr of swords. 

Many people who are wise talk about storm 
spirits, so there must be such . . . poor distracted 
beings who wring their hands and moan in black 
discord. It may be they are the souls of murdered 
folk, and those who have been executed, and they 
cry curses on all who live and love and laugh. 
You must be afraid of them if you are like me. 
My windows look down on the Valley of the Bow 
and out upon a riot of hills. There is nothing 
more beautiful in the girth of the Seven Seas, 
but, to-night, this scene is awesome and full of 
strangeness. The black clouds are laced with 
streaks of lightning, or it may be that the spirits 
thrust out red tongues in derision. 

Lord, how it blows! and I am afraid of this 
thunder and the shouting of the storm. The wind 
grapples with the trees as though they were living 
creatures and it makes no difference that they 
crouch and cry for mercy. It is Bendan, the Pine 
Wrestler, who is out there, and when angry he 
can pluck up a young tree with his little finger or 
break it with a push of his shoulder. But he does 
not do this often ; he only wrestles to make them 
strong. 

It is better for a woman to go down to the great 
stone dining-hall with its yellow floor, where there 
is music, and dancing, and love-making. It is a 



THE PLAYGROUNDS OF THE WEST 275 

pretty play even to the onlooker. Or in the 
big central rotunda, which is the heart of this 
hostelry in the hills, she will find * ' there is always 
fine weather," and '*tlie good fellows" are from 
all over the world and have strange stories to tell 
Canadian folk who stay in the North. In the 
cavernous fireplace, spruce logs burn redly, and 
by their light you may decipher the words on the 
mantelpiece: "The world is my school; travel 
our teacher; Nature our book, and God our 
friend." Overhead, in the fourth gallery, a deep- 
voiced singer is taking us into captivity. Listen, 
then, for it is only in music that critics are taken 
captive: literature has no such thraldom. It is 
about a perfect day that the singer sings, and this 
is what she says — 

*• AimI this is the end of a perfect dby. 

Near the end of a journey too; 
But it leaves a thouprht that is big and strong. 

With a wish that is kind and true. 
For Memory has painted this perfect day 

With colours that never fade. 
And we find at the end of a perfect day 

The soul of a friend we've made." 



CHAPTER XXV 

THE OVERLAND TRAIL OF '98 

Out of the North there rang a cry of Gold! 

Tom McInnes. 

ONLY this spring, a widow near Edmonton 
sold her quarter-section to a real-estate 
syndicate for eighty thousand dollars. She 
was one of the women who ''stayed at home with 
th.'i stuff" while her husband fared forth in search 
of gold at the time of the Klondike stampede in 
1897-8. He died on the trail, and ever since the 
woman has ploughed the lone furrow both literally 
and metaphorically. 

The handsome reward of her industry and per- 
tinacity calls to mind that fable of ^sop's where 
the young men found that the hidden treasure 
their father had described to them was in the 
yield the soil had given after they had industrious- 
ly digged it over. 

We were talking about this the other night, and 
the humour and tragedies of the gold stampede, 
over the last bottle of champagne — positively the 
last — that remained of the most prolonged and 
celebrated spree that ever took place in the 
North. The vintage was a Koch Fits of 1892 and, 

276 



THE OVERLAND TRAIL OF »98 277 

Mierefore (to save your mental arithmetic), I 

iiay add, twenty-one years old. It was brought 

!i by the Helpman Expedition, familiarly known 

io the local wiseacres of the day as "The Helpless 

Proposition.'* 

Did it taste well? 

T do not know. 

I like lemonade with maraschino cherries better 
han champagne, but the party were agreed that 
It was excellent drinking. One said it had a 
pulse; another, that European grapes sucked in 
more sun than those grown in America; "The 
stuff that makes the world go round," remarked 
a third. Assuredly it looks well, thought I, and 
the bubbles caper like they were alive. 

Under the balm and stimulus of the champagne, 
the men (all of them old-timers) were not indis- 
posed to talk concerning the party who brought it 
into the country* and of the things that befell them. 
Also, they tell about the other parties who 
attempted to reach the gold-diggings by the over- 
land route from Edmonton. These were heart- 
breaking tales, with, here and there, a golden 
thread of humour showing up in the black fabric 
f despoliation and defeat. 

The thirty members of the Helpman Party came 
irom (ireat Britain. They were unfortunate from 
he start. They arrived at Edmonton on Christ- 
mas Eve, one of them. Captain Alleyn, being ill 
with pneumonia, from which disease he died a 
couple of days later. He was the artist of the 
party, and correspondent of Renter's News 
Agency. 



278 SEEDS OF PINE 

His was the first military funeral held in the 
North, so that it was an event around which much 
interest centred. 

The expedition was under the command of 
Colonel Helpman and Lord Avonmore of Gort- 
merron House, County Tyrone, known to the local 
folk by the unkind name of ''Lord 'Ave-one- 
more." He died last year in Ireland. ''A truly 
remarkable man, my dear,*' said an old lady of 
our lemonade group, ''and always he talked of 
smashing niggers." 

All provisions and supplies for the gold crusade 
were brought from England, except the horses, 
and the duty thereon amounted to several thous- 
and dollars. In truth, they were provisioned 
under War Office approval, for, said they, "We 
are English gentlemen and must travel as English 
gentlemen." Baled hay and hay-choppers, baths, 
beds, tents, sanitary conveniences, and other 
impedimenta were imported by the train-load. 

These Canadian men will have itj moreover, 
that the Britishers brought in snowshoes for their 
horses, which gear they were wont to designate 
as "bloomin' tennis racquets." I might have 
believed this extraordinary statement had I not 
guessed that my narrator gleaned his idea from 
the Voyages and Explorations of Samuel de 
Champlain, for these imperturbable northmen 
never so much as blink an eye when adding the 
inevitable pinch of spice to a story. 

It is quite true though that the party did bring 
enormous supplies of "arrested" foods, egg pow- 



THE OVERLAND TRAIL OF '98 279 

ders, Westphalian hams, almost unlimited quanti- 
ties of tinned ptarmigan, woodcock, plum-pud- 
ding, and otlier toothsome delicacies well calculat- 
<i to pique the most jaded and club-debauched 
palate. Unfortunately, on being opened, nearly 
all these delicate edibles were found to be spoiled, 
) that the travellers were forced to exist on such 
t ude diet as pig's face, rice, and beans 
But the liquors still remained. Allah be praised ! 
— barrels and cases of it ; yes ! even kegs and demi- 
•hns — brandy, burgundy, benedictine, claret, 
hampagne, and canary — these and other brands 
hich I forget, for my interest was attracted from 
le list to the wistful faces of these historians who 
ihink with love and longing on those rare old, fair 
old golden days that are gone beyond recall. 

On their arrival at Edmonton, the commanders 
of the expedition were informed that a prohibi- 
tion law was in force in the Yukon and that, in 
onsequence, no spirituous liquors could be car- 
ried across its borders. This being the case, 
there was nothing for it but to drink the liquors 
in Edmonton. They had no licence to sell it, and 
to pour it upon the unappreciative prairie would 
he manifestly absurd — even wicked. This is why 
1 was correct in saying that our vintage of the 
night was the last bottle of the most prolonged 
nd celebrated spree that ever took place in the 
\orth. In truth, it was an Homeric carousal. 

The spree lasted for six weeks, and fights TS'ith 
their legal sequences were frequent. To use the 
most crenorally approved northern expression of 



280 SEEDS OF PINE 

the day, * ' They just fit and fit, ' ' so that more than 
once the good Archdeacon of Alberta had to pour 
oil and balm into the broken bones and brittle 
nerves of the combatants. Indeed, he went so 
far as to have them nursed in his own home. He 
is a hale-hearted, fine-fibred gentleman, our Arch- 
deacon. 

It is hardly fair, however, to lay the entire 
spree to the credit of the stampeders. The popu- 
lation of Edmonton, in the late nineties, consisted 
of fifteen hundred people, and all the male portion 
of it used their utmost endeavours to prevent any 
good liquor going to waste. The gentry of the 
community were invited to partake, but the hewers 
of wood and drawers of water who had been en- 
gaged to exercise the pack-horses by walking 
them up and down, these, and the disorderly 
arrant idlers who hung on the borders of the 
camp, helped themselves. Their motto was the 
same as Lord Nelson's — "Touch and take." In- 
deed, the speedy manner in which they relieved 
the expedition of any encumbering wealth was 
truly most astonishing. They have a theory in 
the North that everything belongs by right to the 
man who has the greatest need. Now, the need 
of the North is a very big pocket and there ai-o 
holes in it. 

Ultimately, the party got away. They took the 
Swan Hill route that leads to the Old Assiniboine 
Crossing, but spring had already set in so that 
the trails were deep with water, and the muskegs 
were bottomless pits. 



THE u\i::itLA.NiJ iKAlL OF *98 281 

The loader of the expedition (by which they 
meant the foreman as distinct from the director) 
was Mr. Matthew Evanston O'Brien, an Irish 
solicitor and erstwhile Chief of Police in Aus- 
tralia. It is also said he was an English secret- 
service man. He died in April of this year at 
Wetaskawin, Alberta, where he was practising 
law. 

The breeds and other packers who accompanied 
the party became insolent and purposely lost their 
loads. One man smashed the camp stove and 
dropped it into a river; others lost tents; while 
some found hay and oats as hard to hold as quick- 
silver. Being badly sheltered and underfed, 
nearly all of their hundred horses died, so that 
long afterwards teamsters coming to the south 
picked up wagon loads of harness besides other 
useful gear. In a word, like the man who tried all 
the rheumatism cures, the members of the Help- 
man Expedition w^ere **done good." 

Some of the party got as far as Fort Simpson 
on the Mackenzie River, but in the end every man, 
greatly chastened in spirit, turned back to Edmon- 
ton, where some of them were stranded for sev- 
eral months before money came to take them on to 
England. 

Do not laugh at their misfortune. It is not 
seemly so to do, for, in all this wildly-warring 
world, there are few more bitter cups than the 
failure of a big financial coup in the which you 
have invested your own (and alas!) other people's 
monev. 



282 SEEDS OP PINE 

Besides, few of the scores of parties who start- 
ed fared any better, while many faced worse. 
Some of them, like the Moody Expedition, return- 
ed because they could not make over two or three 
miles a day, they having to fell the impeding 
timber. At this rate of travel, the journey would 
have occupied five years. 

Other crusaders returned because they had no 
food or money, a condition that scarcely makes 
for progress or health. 

Still others came back because they had fallen 
out by the way, for the trail has the satanic peculi- 
arity of developing all that is surly, selfish, or 
yellow in human nature. People who are tired, 
ill, and hungry lift the curtain of their character 
and forget to let it fall, so that the result is dis- 
illusionment to all concerned. Not a few men who 
started in on pronouncedly amicable terms, eat- 
ing from the same plate both actually and figur- 
atively, came out brimful with umbrage, hatred 
and pique. Murder on the trail may be almost a 
natural impulse. 

But all the derelicts who returned had one weU- 
defined peculiarity (albeit a negative one), they 
came in quietly by the back trails — they who had 
gone forth full-fed and wanton as young gophers. 
The North had rolled out their individuality like 
one might roll out dough. They w^ere ''the 
bitten;" gaunt-eyed starvelings; tatterdemalions 
who might have posed for Rip Van Winkle or 
The Ancient Mariner. The North is a goodly 
country- and attracts goodly men, yet, even here, 



THE OVERLAND TRAIL OF '98 283 

one may lose both his sense and his competence. 

"Did no one succeed t" I ask. 

"Oh yes!" replies a jocund old gentleman who 
has lived here these thirty years. "One man got 
through by hook or crook — chiefly crook. He was 
a real-estate agent and insurance broker." 

Further questions elicit the fact that this broker 
was not so much a stampeder as an absconder. He 
was short in his returns to the insurance com- 
pany and took this means of avoiding arrest. At 
least, so it was rumoured. He left Edmonton in 
the late winter with no money, no food — nothing 
but a small hand-satchel containing collars and 
blank premium forms. All the way along he in- 
sured the trailers on the straight life, endowment, 
or accident policies, or for sick benefits. They 
were far enough on the trail to realize that there 
was a distinct possibility of their requiring one, 
if not all these premiums, so our broker found fat 
pickings. T^esides, each trailer had begun to think 
lovingly and longingly of his family at home, 
and of what a comforting compensation a ten- 
thousand dollar policy might be to them in the 
event of his death. Indeed, it seemed almost like 
swindling the company to take out a policy on 
this journey. But what would you? Here was 
their properly certified agent with the requisite 
papers to boot. Oiu> must take what the gods 
send. 

At Atliabasca Landing, our broker man stole a 
boat and made his way doA\Ti the river. He fed 
at each camp he encountered ; related how he had 



284 SEEDS OF PINE 

become separated from his party, and how he 
was hurrying forward to rejoin them. Under the 
circumstances, it was only natural that his hosts 
should supply him with enough food for a day or 
two. Besides, it would never do to let him die 
of starvation and he carrying their good money 
and insurance policies in his satchel — the little 
black hand-satchel wherein he kept his collars. 

He reached Dawson early in the rush, but we 
do not know how it fared with him there — whether 
he crushed his money from stones or bones — for it 
was probable he took a new name, and, needless to 
say, lie did not return via the overland route to 
Edmonton. 

Two others who reached the northern Eldorado 
were Jim Kenealey and Jack Russell. It took 
them two years to get in. Russell struck pay-dirt 
in the Cape Nome District, but Kenealey, after 
abandoning several claims, came out penniless. 
He died recently at the Cameron House, Strath- 
cona, of which hotel he was proprietor. Kenealey, 
who came from Peterboro', Ontario, in the early 
eighties, was a clever sleight-of-hand artist and 
one time had an encounter with an Indian, it 
being natural and entirely reasonable that the 
Indian should demand the fifty cents that Ken- 
ealey claimed to have taken from his ear. 

*'But there were others who reached the gold 
zone," explains a lawy^er who was, in those days, 
a cub-reporter, type-setter, and I know not what 
besides. "I have forgotten their names, but you 
may find them in the files of The Bulletin." 



THE OVERLAND TRAIL OP '98 285 

One of these parties comprised four men, 
Martin MeXeeley from Sault Ste. Marie, Michi- 
gan, Goorjjo Baalam, AV. Sclireoves and W. J. Gra- 
ham. 

Schreeves and Baalam reached Dawson safely; 
Graham was drowned on the way, and McNeeley, 
who injured his foot, was left behind by the others 
somewhere near the Devil's Portage. 

Some months afterwards, Mr. E. T. Cole of 
Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, with his party, stmnb- 
led upon a small tent in which they found a ter- 
ribly decomposed body. It was McNeeley 's. By 
his side there was a knife, a compass, a rifle, 
twenty-five rounds of cartridges, twenty pounds 
of flour, some meat, matches and wood. The fol- 
lowing excerpts are from his diary — 

*' December 28, 1897 — My partners deserted me 
and tried to cripple me further by taking my 
grub. 

"January 5, 1898 — Walked eight miles on my 
awful foot and am crippled on an Island alone. 
The pain of my foot is terrible." 

The files reveal another tragedy in which two 
men from Brantford, Ontario, were the principals 
— the Strathdees. 

Mr. A. C. Strathdee was one of the early stam- 
peders. He went north with sixteen pack-horses. 
His only companion was his son, aged twenty-two, 
W. Harvey Strathdee, a member of the Dufferin 
Rifles. They camped one night beside the Taylor 
Trail that leads to Nelson. In the morning, while 
cooking breakfast, Harvey sighted a niooso and, 



286 SEEDS OF PINE 

straightway, started in pursuit. At noon he had 
not returned and his father, becoming anxious, 
tried to follow the trail, but unsuccessfully. At 
night, the now frantic man lit a fire and shot off 
his rifle in the hope that Harvey might see or hear 
them. He did this for eight terrible days and 
eight more terrible nights, till he realized that 
further delay would endanger his own life. In 
these eight days, half of his horses died from lack 
of food, the man being afraid to shift camp in 
case Harvey might find his way back. 

Further on, he met James and John Fair of 
Elkhorn, Manitoba, who returned with him to 
spend yet eight other days in unavailing search. 
At Dunvegan, Mr. Strathdee engaged a white 
man, an Indian, and a dog-train to go in and make 
quest till spring. Then he came back to Edmon- 
ton, where he exacted promises from the journal- 
ists to forward to him at Brantford any report 
that might come in from the trails regarding the 
lost youth. 

For a long time nothing came but, one day, 
some Indians brought in word how on their way 
north nearly a year before, they fell on the fresh 
trail of a lost white man and had followed it up. 
They loiew he was white for he wore boots, and 
that he was lost because of his uncertain, round- 
about course. They found his body on a mountain 
between two logs. His arms were outspread and 
his cartridge belt and rifle lay by his side. The 
trees around had been burned, and the Indians 
were of the opinion that he had set them on fire 
to try and attract his father's attention. 



THE 0\T:RLAND trail of '98 287 

That the public of Canada and the United 
States had little idea of the hardships to be en- 
dured on the overland trail was evidenced by the 
fact that a number of women attempted to take 
it. Some of them wore ordinary clothes with 
plumes in their hats, but the more knowing ones 
were attired in jaeger skirts and jerseys, also they 
wore jaeger caps that covered the face except for 
the nose and mouth. In their belts they carried 
six-shooters. 

Letters were received here asking if the writers 
could get through to the Klondyke on bicycles; 
if there were good boarding-houses on the way, 
and if the Indians were troublesome. 

For the instruction of the stampeders, the 
Honourable the Minister of the Interior, then 
Mr. Frank Oliver, issued a special number of 
The Bulletin, which was the farthest north news- 
paper, mapping out the route and the distances 
between the points. 

By the shortest and best travelled trails, the 
entire distance from Edmonton to the Klondyke 
was 2,728 miles. This route was via the Atha- 
basca, Great Slave, Mackenzie and Peel Rivers. 
From thence it crossed to Summit, La Pierre 
House, and do^vTi the Porcupine River to its junc- 
tion with the Yukon River. From this point to 
Dawson was the home-run. 

There are said to be sixty-eight roads to heaven, 
but this road to Dawson is not one of them. 

Each man had six pack-ponies to carry in his 
supplies, which consisted of 900 lb. of food and 



288 SEEDS OF PINE 

150 lb. of clothing and hardware, making in all, 
1,050 lb. The ponies cost from twenty-five to 
thirty dollars, and it was conservatively estimated 
that the supplies cost $250.00. 

The food was calculated on the basis of the 
Mounted Police rations and was supposed to last 
a year, being doled out at the following ration 
per man, per day : flour I14 lb., beef II/2 lb., bacon 
I lb., potatoes 1 lb., apples 3 oz., beans 4 oz., 
coffee or tea 1^ oz., salt i/^ oz., butter 2 oz., sugar 
3 oz. 

With praiseworthy discretion, many of the Old- 
Timers opened up depots to supply the parties 
with outfits, but, on the whole, there was no over- 
charging or money-grabbing such as one might 
have expected. On the contrary, the prices that 
prevailed were from 25 to 75 per centum less 
than those of to-day. Flour was $2.50 per hun- 
dredweight; bacon 11 cents per pound, evapor- 
ated apples 8 cents, rolled-oats 3 cents, raisins 
10 cents, and black tea from 25 to 40 cents. Pack- 
saddle blankets cost $2.00 a pair, and large grey 
blankets $3.25. Long arctic socks cost from 50 
cents to $1.00, sweaters from $1.00 to $1.50, and 
cardigan jackets from $1.00 to $2.00. 

Many kinds of costumes were affected. Some 
men were clad in fur from head to feet; others 
wore khaki, or sheepskin coats ; and in one party 
every man had a coonskin coat. 

Nothing, however, caused so much excitement 
in the burgh as the various modes of conveyance 
that were planned and built by the gold-seekers. 



THE OVERL^VND TRAIL OP *98 289 

** Texas*' Smith started alone on the longish 
trail with all his provisions packed in three bar- 
rels. These were equipped as rollers or wheels 
with a platform on top for sleeping purposes. He 
calculated that on the rivers the barrels would 
act as floaters and so could be comfortably navi- 
gated. 

Texas travelled nearly nine miles before the 
hoops came off. He was able to retrace his steps 
to town by the beans the barrels shed on the road. 
They took his photograph, and that of his con- 
veyance, before he started but, on his return, 
urood-naturedly refrained, for it was distinctly 
noticeable that Texas had tho air of having eaten 
the canary. 

Breneau Fabian, a Belgian, invented a boat 
which, being intended for all elements, was con- 
structed from galvanized iron. He called it 
Noah's Ark. It was built in two parts with a 
hinge in the middle. When open, it could be used 
on the river, for it had a keel; or on the snow, 
for it had runners. If he cared to, he could close up 
his boat by means of the hinge — that is, it would 
turn over, one part on top of the other, in which 
shape it was a caravan with wheels attached. 
His yoke of oxen were to be killed at Athabasca 
Landing and salted down as food for the journey. 

For the information of the curiously inclined, 
I might say that until recently, Fabian's Ark 
served as a float at all civic processions such as 
Labour Day and the Queen's Jubilee, but it has 
had its day and its scrap heap. 



290 SEEDS OF PINE 

Another man, whose name I could not learn, 
built an ice-boat on the Saskatchewan River. He 
had figured out that he could reach the placer- 
diggings by means of sails, thus acquiring a dis- 
tinct monetary advantage over the folk and fel- 
lows who had horses, in that sails would not re- 
quire to be fed with hay and oats. 

Be it said to the credit of the folk and fellows 
that they cherished no grudge in their hearts, for, 
the sails refusing to act, they loaned him fourteen 
teams wherewith to haul his ice-boat on to the 
bank. 

Considering the length and nature of the trail, 
perhaps the most bird-Avitted scheme of reaching 
the Klondike was that evolved by the **I Will" 
Steam-Sleigh Company of Chicago. They ought 
to have known better. 

They built a train of four cabooses or cars, the 
motive power of which was steam. A marine 
boiler and engine were imported from the United 
States, upon which they paid $500.00 custom toll. 
Also, they imported a revolving drum equipped 
with teeth, similar to those used on the log-roads 
in the big timber-limits, and sprocket-wheels, 
band-chains, and other things no mortal woman 
could be expected to remember. All the cars were 
on steel-runners. The one behind the engine con- 
tained fuel; the second was the living car, while 
the third held supplies. 

Everything was packed and loaded ready for 
the hour of starting before the builders had tested 
the machine. All Edmonton was assembled to see 



THE OVERLAND TRAIL OF *98 291 

he sight, while scores of Indians squatted around 
md stared like gargoyles. The workmen, with an 
air of high concern, twisted a bolt here, or a belt 
!iere; oiled a hub, or did one of the hundred 
things a mechanic does to an engine and boiler 
when he would have you believe he is earning his 
pay. 

It was a proud moment when one of the builders 
stepped forward and touched his hat to a blue- 
uniformed official — a moment, too, that was 
fraught with serious issues, for the blue-uniform 
said, '^Let her go!'-' All Edmonton ceased to 
breathe and the Indians looked almost pale. 

There was a vast creaking; a shudder as if the 
caverns of the deep were opened; the wheels 
turned — and turned — and turned, and with each 
urn buried the machine deeper into the earth, 
iliere to remain till the day that Kenneth Macleod 
bought the marine boiler and engine for his saw- 
mill. They say he bought it for a song, but no 
one ever heard the song. Ah! but those were 
right royal days for tlie Old-Tiniers, the like of 
which can never be. 

I nearly forgot about tlie three cabooses. These 
stampeders who did not die of scurv>', hardship, 
starvation, or accident, and who returned via 
Edmonton, used the cabooses for shelter while 
they wrote home for money. 

It was a long time before they were free of 
occupants. 



CHAPTER XXVI 



A SONG OF THIS LAND 



OUT of the North comes tumult, say they 
who are poets, and clangorous challenge 
to battle. 

True, Poets ! And out of the North come men 
of robust mood who will keep our nation's honour, 
for this is a country where courage and truth are 
inborn; a land which sways the souls of its citi- 
zens unto high endeavour. From this country 
where, of old, dwelt the bow-bearers who were 
eaters of strong meat, will come high-hearted men 
of loyal temper, for this is the world's House of 
Youth. This shall be its nurse of heroes. 

Money-flingers and careless, are these North- 
men, says another, and wasters of wealth. 

True, Sir Time Lock, but when the gods 
would be thrifty they give their money away. The 
Gods are master-spenders and have learned the 
wide wisdom of being foolish. Do you follow me 
aright ? 

And this is the wisdom of our Northmen who 
have well tamed Dame Fortune and have set their 
sure brand upon her. 

But, if money sticks not in their purses, and if 
they haggle , not over coins, yet are these men 

292 



A SONG OF THIS LAND 293 

businessful with a purpose for large enterprise. 
In these latitudes, we have deep-counselled com- 
panies of traders who, while they love the sweet 
power of money, have ever bartered fairly, and 
know that *mine* and * thine' are different words 
which rh^Tue well in all reckonings. I have sure 
grounds for knowing this, and am minded to say, 
**Hail!andallhailI" 

The North is a numbed and haggard land of 
arid snow, say many voices. In its vast voids 
lives a dark spirit which lures men on and tricks 
them so that they come, in time, to love that which 
punishes them. And if by some fair hap they 
are led into other and softer climes, then do they 
fret and fever for the wolf-lands of the Yukon or 
the Mackenzie, as though some secret and unfor- 
l)idden magic had entered their blood forever. 

I win not speak contrarawise to these men, for 
it is meet that I should speak fairly. The love of 
the North, like the fier\' kiss of genius, is a sor- 
rowful gift, and none can say whether it is greater 
in joy or pain. She is an exacting mistress, this 
white-bodied, rude-muscled North, and, of times, 
she breaks and hurts a man till he drags his 
brokenness away to die. Yet, is she beautiful and 
passionately human; full of \igour and drunken 
with life, and her house stretches from the dawn 
to da\^all. 

And why should men complain of the stabbing 
cold and of the unrestricted range of the young 
winds? Why do they wish to regulate God's snow 
and rain? What could be more hateful to men 



294 SEEDS OF PINE 

than unfaltering sunshine and ever-flowering 
fields? 

In the winter of the fortressed North, animals 
turn white as do the birds and the very earth 
itself. All were pallid and colourless but for the 
yellow belt of the setting sun and the black-green 
tree shadows that fall toward the pole. The 
rivers cease their singing; the birds are silent, 
and all is stilled to the bounds of the world save 
only the sonorous wind which is the breath of 
Claeg, the Round One, who is the earth. Here, the 
north-east wind is Lord Paramount, and the Crees 
and Ohipewyans have long known that Death 
comes from his direction. 

Listen ! I made an error to say that all is stilled, 
for, of occasion, there is the mewl of the lynx; 
the yap of the timber wolf as he gives tongue in 
pursuit of ah-pe-shee moos-oos, the jumping deer; 
the howling infamy of the huskies seeking their 
meat from God; the raucous roar of the hulking 
moose blind with rage of love. 

Listen! I made an error to speak of an all- 
whiteness, for, where the Aurora pins her colours 
to the sky, it is like unto an angry opal. This is 
Beauty Absolute. Her swinging swords of flame 
none have measured : who shall tell the measure of 
this land? 

But listen ! It is' not beyond our understanding 
that men should feel the urge of this Northland 
and its strange enticement. Some there are who 
speak of it as the lure of the North; the fret of 
spring, or the call of red gods. Surely we may 



A SONG OP THIS LAND 295 

;nderstand aright if we do but watch the birds 

liock hither of spring-time, and how the fish fight 

'ip against the streams though it be to suffer and 

) die. These cannot resist the drag of the mag- 

etic pole, any more than you and I who have 

«)uls and are feeling folk! 

But it is not always frigid here, for we have 
springtide and the season of seven sweet suns. 
"Good morrow!" shouts the tired Winter in the 
time of melting snows. "Good morrow!" shouts 
ack the nimble Spring as he throws a mist of 
green over the young aspens. ' * Come fly with me 
and touch the sun, ' ' pleads the eagle to his sweet- 
heart. **Come with me and be my love," woos 
Kiya, boatman of the Athabasca; "already the 
young birds are in their nests and soon they will 
fly away. Soon will the time of mating be past. ' ' 

Aye ! but the summer winds are honey-mouthed. 

Aye ! but the skies are star-enchanted, and there 
ire fair stories I might tell about yellow grain 
ields and of red lilies like blown flame, but none 
save those who iare prairie rangers would under- 
stand aright. 

Besides, there are woolly-mouthed men and 
chattering daws who say secretly that we of the 
Korth are boasters, and that we tell ill tales. 

But though we are impeached, yet will we say 
that our song is tinged with no lie. We are young 
Mien, and sowers of grain, and it is pleasant to 
glorify the largess of our harvest. 

We are boasters, they tell, and full-mouthed, 
but why should we keep hidden and unshared the 



296 SEEDS OF PINE 

all-golden treasures of our fields? We will not 
hide this thing in our hearts, but, with fair speech, 
will sing it in a million-voiced canticle of praise. 
There is no need that we sing restrainedly of our 
goodly dower, or in measured words, for we are 
no servile race of hirelings, but free men and 
proclaimers of this land. Because we are wit- 
nesses that the talent of our country is folded in 
the fecund earth, we will speak aloud to our neigh- 
bouring Saxons of friendly mind, and to the 
brotherhood of the soil throughout the universe. 
We will speak with them concerning our gold, and 
vineyards, and fine flour; of our forests, and 
fisheries, and apple orchards, till their veins stir 
as with the tang of old wine. These folk have 
need to know that in the North prosperity grow- 
eth widely ; that here the unbelievable is achieved. 
This is the true fairy-land where swineherds and 
barbers, and much labouring men are raised to 
riches and power. Here is a dining-hall whose 
friendly feast is spread for all Here every man 
may come and eat of our cakes and melons, of our 
honey and fat things. 

The North has no need of an interpreter : it has 
need of heralds. Then ho! for our fierce and 
beautiful country ; our strong and fertile country. 

We will send these tidings Europeward and the 
far-defivered message shall not fall to the ground. 
It is a blithe young tune we shall sing, with a 
resonant chorus of "Canada, Canada." 

Fitting is it that we should sing to the Isles of 
Britain, for from them is the birth of this breed 



A SONG OF THIS LANTD 297 

and theirs is the royal stamp we bear upon our 
tii^liting arm. We are the wide-ruling seed of the 
Saxons and ever shall we answer to the rally of 
the race. All liands around ! We will pledge the 
liomeland of Britain! 

And who will sing this song of the North? Sit 
j'ou here till we talk of this thing. I pray you 
prompt my pen as it forgets. 

They have come hither to sing it from Ottawa, 
which is the Place of Councils, and the sovereign 
city in this fair house of Canada. 

Hither have they come from the tobacco planta- 
tions of Essex; the yellow cornfields of Lambton; 
the luscious peach groves of Kent, and the vine- 
yards of Welland. These are lusty fellows and of 
fine fibre. 

Here are men of consideration from the thick- 
leaved apple orchards of Nova Scotia and from 
the dairy steadings of Oxford. Have you never 
heard concerning the round towers of Oxford 
which are stacks of grain, and of the herds of 
black bulls which feed fatly on her meadowlandsf 
Then it is small knowledge you have of this Do- 
minion and the bright fortunes of its people. 

Others have joined our chorus who are from 
mailed Quebec, which is the eye of Canada; from 
Montreal, whose traffickers are among the honour- 
able of the earth, and from Niagara, where, with 
subtle cunning, men have bridled Neptune, the 
Lord of Waters, and have made his trident into 
one of fire. 



298 SEEDS OF PINE 

These courtly and free-handed fellows have 
hailed from Toronto. Beautiful Toronto! The 
city of work and play. I like well its stately 
homes and its women with honey-throated voices. 

And, here where I write at Edmonton under the 
aurora, these men of the Southern Provinces have 
assembled with our lads of the North and West 
who are leather-fleshed and hard-sinewed, but 
withal, comely. This is Edmonton on the Saskat- 
chewan, which the bow-bearers call by another 
name, meaning the great river of the plains. This 
is the stranger-thronged city of the North; the 
city that has merited a cheer. It is here our 
glorious Lady of Alberta has placed her throne 
whereunto all her sons come up that they may pay 
her tribute of honour. 

To this place come the farmer-folk from the 
wheatlands of the queenly Peace, and the priests 
and trappers from the Athabasca, which the bow- 
bearers call by another name, meaning the great 
river of the woods. And hither come the traders 
and road builders from the pass between the cleft 
mountains where, of old, dwelt Jasper of the 
yellow head; these, and the horse-taming men 
from young Calgary. We who love games and 
the glory of them, stand at salute. 

These are the men from Winnipeg, the Mother 
City of the North. Honour upon honour be to 
her! 

Right pleasant is it to present the likely-looking 
lads of Regina and of the deep soiled plains of 
Saskatchewan. On the plains, the straight-blow- 



A SONG OF THIS LAND 299 

ing wind is scented from the grassed headlands 
dappled with (lowers. On the plains, dwell strong, 
glad men in the joy of their youth. On the plains 
there lives some common mother of the coimuon, 
weal, who is the ancestress of our kings to be. 

These others whom I have held back until now 
that your attention might not falter, are the 
dauntless, high-adventuring men who crossed the 
mountains to where the land lieth soft to the sea. 
These are the men of the new appointed city of 
Prince Rupert; the men of the fortunate, fair- 
built city of Victoria, and those of sure-seated 
Vancouver. May they build strongly and well. 
It IS seemly that the forefront of our royal House 
of Canada should be of far-shining splendour. 

We have high delight in this Province of British 
Columbia; in its unshorn hills that are furrowed 
wilh rifts of roses, in its fair-watered fruitlands, 
and in the rice and silk ships that come reeling 
down its bays. This is a new-peopled land of 
fostered folk and, of times, men's hearts fail them 
lest these stranger-guests march not in step 
\\'ith the genius of the race. We who are your 
sister provinces, Columbia by the Sea, stretch 
forth our hands to you and pray you as sentinels 
to keep our portals straitly, but, notwithstanding, 
that you be wise in love to all things living. . . . 
And, now, to the hither side of the mountains have 
come these western men of erect spirit to sing 
^\dth us the song of the North and of Canada. 

I wish my pen might tell you of our song, but 
this were a hard task, for while our voices are 



300 SEEDS OF PINE 

tuned to one chord our themes are manifold. 
Wliatsoever things a man may desire, these may 
he find in liis Mother Canada. Some men sing of 
her ample skies and the incorruptible glory of 
them ; of her changing climes, limitless fields, and 
law-loving spirit. Others have pleasant cause of 
song in the rivers that give water to the people ; in 
far-strung wires and clear highways to the sea; 
and in her great institutions of beneficence which 
conserve the moral energies of the citizens. 

Some, in voice which sounds like supplication, 
sing that a sense of safety may be preserved in 
our homes, and that sweet tranquility may be the 
lot of our aged folk. 

Others would have it that our ballot-strips fall 
from clean hands, and that no man thinks only 
of his own Province but of the well-being and 
good health of all. 

May our children, Canada! have strong 
bodies and souls above the lusts of gain, urges one, 
and let the women of our Dominion be skilled in 
mother-craft, but with their house windows open 
to the intellectual breezes of the world. 
. . . And I, of myself, am stirred to do tribute of 
praise. I am thy child, Canada, dear Mother! 
How shall I have wisdom to order my words 
aright? my lips sing this song! Sweet, my 
pen, tell this tale, for the fullness of my heart has 
made heavy my hand. 

I will make a crown of maple leaves for you, 
and w411 twist them with flowers of the lily. See ! 
I bring you native flowers; mint and roses and 



A SONG OP THIS LAND 301 

clover blooms. I bring you golden-rod and naari- 
golds, and berries that are red. Take thfese from 
my hands, Good Mother! My heart is awed and I 
cannot speak aright. 

Listen! All of us who sing to you have joined 
hands — Northmen and Southerners and men of 
the coast-line. It is our wish to tell your glory 
aloud that all may hear. It is wiser still to leave 
a part untold that the world may the better 
know it. 

Hail to tliee, Canada, and hail to the flag! 
We who are thy children salute thee! 

THE END 



T. M. MST PaillTIIIC C*. LiaiTCO. TOtOHTO 



I 



F Wurphy, Emily Ferguson 

5019 Seeds of pine 

m 



PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE 
CARDS OR SUPS FROM THIS POCKET 

ERINDALE COLLEGE UBRARY